SHORT VERSION FOR DELIVERY ON SEPTEMBER 9, 2011, Plataforma del Voluntariado de Espana Autumn Course
On September 11, 2008, in New York City, Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama put aside partisan differences for one night to discuss the important role that community service plays in maintaining the values and ideals of the United States. In 2009, Democrats and Republicans again came together to pass a bill recognizing September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance.
As you’ve no doubt seen on the news lately, it’s very difficult to get Democrats and Republicans to agree on anything. But community service is something that generally has support from both sides of the aisle, and across the nation. An active civil society is something the United States has been known for since its beginnings. Today, more than a quarter of Americans volunteer or perform community service. ------------------ Note: The volunteer rate slipped slightly in 2010, from 26.8% to 26.3%. All figures and charts from “Volunteering in America” 2011 report of rates in 2010.
That is over 62 million Americans donating over 8 billion hours of service. ---------------------------------------- Volunteering in the U.S. Highlights: The bullets below are all based on an average using 2008 to 2010 data 62.7 million volunteers 26.5% of residents volunteer 8.1 billion hours of service 34.1 hours per resident While the overall national volunteer rate dipped slightly from 26.8 percent in 2009 to 26.3 percent in 2010, the number of hours volunteers served remained approximately the same at 8.1 billion hours, indicating many volunteers committed more hours to service. The proportion of volunteers who serve 100 hours or more appears to have increased between 2009 and 2010 from 33.2 percent to 33.8 percent, and the median number of hours served per volunteer appears to have increased from 50 to 52 per year.
They are supporting the basic needs of their neighbors in soup kitchens and food pantries or serving as mentors and tutors to underserved youth. They do so through their churches, synagogues, or mosques; through government-sponsored programs; through community centers and grassroots organizations.
There are some general conclusions that we can draw about what works in promoting community service in the United States that might apply to volunteerism in Spain as well. In my view, there are three prerequisites for a culture that encourages civic engagement: big problems, inspired leadership, and a generation of citizens eager to engage in their communities.
Today, citizens are stepping up to address the problems that threaten their communities: economic inequality, educational access, health issues. As the problems our country confronts have changed, the organizations and individuals confronting them have adapted. They have recognized that willingness and idealism is not enough. Non-profits are adapting their strategy and their focus to address the pressing issues in their communities in quantifiable ways. They recognize that solving these problems requires the interaction of many actors: non-profit, government, faith-based organizations, and business.
One prime example is City Year. Harvard roommates Michael Brown and Alan Khazei started City Year in Boston in 1988 as a program for volunteers to help inner city communities through beautification projects and community empowerment. As the program grew, they realized that service must demonstrate a quantifiable impact on the communities served and must help solve concrete problems. City Year has developed its focus on reducing the rate of high school drop outs and improving student achievement. As local governments have developed new strategies to reduce dropout rates, City Year volunteers have been there to provide the mentoring and tutoring needed to achieve results. The results have been astounding; graduation rates have increased, especially among minorities. In 2010, 90% of all students tutored by City Year improved their raw literacy scores, and City Year’s efforts resulted in a better attendance rate among students. .
The second element that creates a society of volunteers has been inspired leadership, leaders who recognize the importance of service in creating a society that can achieve its goals. President Kennedy challenged and inspired a new generation when he said “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” In 1961 he created the Peace Corps, channeling the energy and idealism of this new generation by giving them a way to help people in developing countries. Now in its 50 th year, more than 200,000 Peace Corps volunteers have served.
In 1993, inspired by a campaign visit to City Year, President Clinton signed legislation establishing the Corporation for National and Community Service. The Corporation houses all the federal government’s domestic service programs, including a Johnson-era volunteer program called VISTA and new programs such as AmeriCorps, all focused on engaging Americans to solve the problems of their communities. Today, AmeriCorps offers 75,000 opportunities for adults of all ages and backgrounds to serve through a network of partnerships with local and national nonprofit groups. --------------- President Clinton swears in AmeriCorps members, 1993
The Corporation’s goal is not to provide services through a top-down government program, but to empower communities by supporting volunteer organizations through grants, training, and technical assistance. It links volunteers and volunteer organizations through the website serve.gov. Through programs such as AmeriCorps and Senior Corps, it provides Americans with opportunities to solve the problems of their communities.
During his campaign, President Obama vowed to make service a key cause of his presidency. He set the stage the day before his inauguration by working at a homeless shelter for teens in honor of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. In April 2009, President Obama signed into law the Serve America Act. The new legislation created more opportunities for Americans of all ages to serve through AmeriCorps and other programs. ----------------------- Photo is of Pres. Obama with volunteers at Ron Brown Middle School on September 11, 2010.
The President recognizes that in order for government to support the needs of communities during this era of budget cuts, it will need to work closer than ever with non profits and communities. ------------------ President and First Lady volunteering at a Habitat for Humanity project on September 11, 2009. Photo credit: Ralph Alswang
On a local level, too, elected leaders have supported volunteerism as a tool for the changes they hope to accomplish in their administrations. In 2009, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg founded Cities of Service, inspiring 100 other mayors to harness the work of volunteers to meet the needs of their cities. ---------------------------- NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley at a Cities of Service event.
The final element of American volunteerism is a willing generation. Each generation of Americans has sought to address the challenges that define their era through service to their nation and their communities. Americans volunteer as youngsters, as parents and as grandparents. ------------------------------------------------------------------- Millennials (ages 16-28): 21.2% volunteer, much more than the same age group in 1989. Gen X (ages 29-45): 29.2% Baby Boomers: 28.8% Older Adults: 23.6%
It is a new generation, the Millennial Generation, that is redefining the civic values of our nation today. They grew up in the most interconnected world in history. They live in a post-9/11 and post-Hurricane Katrina world, committed to being part of something bigger than themselves. They want to make a difference, not just make a living. Confronted with a bleak job outlook, they are devoting themselves to changing the world.
What are some other factors that have strengthened American volunteerism in recent years? They are strategies that have supported volunteerism by building support for service within local communities, by strengthening service organizations, and by linking volunteers to service organizations. One way to build support for service is through service learning, an increasingly influential factor in encouraging young Americans to serve. Service-learning connects classroom curriculum with service projects while building social, civic and academic skills. Recent data on volunteerism rates show that these programs have paid off with the Millennial Generation. They are volunteering through high school, college and beyond at higher rates than previous generations did.
Another way to encourage volunteerism is by supporting the organizations that inspire the most American volunteers: faith-based organizations. Older Americans, minorities and disadvantaged youth are all most likely to volunteer through faith-based organizations. This can include anything from serving at a soup kitchen in a church basement or giving blood at a synagogue Mitzvah Day to travelling abroad with a religious organization to help an impoverished community in a developing country. Studies show that these volunteers are more consistent in their volunteering and that secular non-profits can really benefit by partnering with them. To support these efforts, President George W. Bush worked to make it easier for the federal government to support faith-based initiatives, and President Obama has continued this.
For non-profit organizations faced with budget cuts, finding volunteers is not as big a problem as finding funds. This is where the private sector plays an important role in strengthening service organizations: through in-kind donations, employee service programs, skills-based volunteering and financial support. In 1989, City Year’s co-founders approached The Timberland Company asking for 50 pairs of boots for City Year corps members serving in the neighborhoods of Boston. Timberland provided the boots, and it now provides the red jackets that have become the symbol of City Year worn by the thousands of City Year volunteers serving across the nation. Timberland’s support for community service did not end with donated apparel. The company gives staff an annual benefit of 40 paid hours for community service. Like many other companies, every year Timberland organizes a global day of service. Other companies use their expertise in management to “mentor” NGOs or to provide skill-based volunteering to help improve the effectiveness of volunteer organizations. IBM has incorporated service into this year’s 100 th anniversary celebrations. As a result, IBM employees and their families have logged nearly three million hours of service worldwide in 2011.
Finally, a strong network of organizations and volunteers can make a big difference. Like the Plataforma del Voluntariado here in Spain, the Hands On Network in the U.S. links volunteers to volunteer opportunities that meet the needs of non-profits and match the skills and time constraints of volunteers. Hands On also provides support and training to volunteers and non-profit organizations and helps link companies to volunteer organizations that can use their support. Hands On’s work was instrumental in recruiting and managing volunteers in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. What started as a group formed to make it easier for people to get involved in building their communities has grown to a national network of more than 250 centers.
Habitat for Humanity is an example of an organization that has capitalized on recruiting youth volunteers and corporate support, adapting to the challenges of the day. Universities around the country host Habitat chapters, and many college students donate their spring breaks to build Habitat homes. Over 14,000 students volunteered during the last school year. Habitat now relies on corporate in-kind donors for 22% of its budget. For example, Whirlpool Appliances donates an oven and a refrigerator for every home built, which today is nearly 100,000 each year. Though originally founded to build affordable housing for low income families, Habitat has met the housing needs of victims of recent natural disasters. It has also focused on rehabilitating existing homes and apartments and has committed to green building practices. Habitat identifies itself as a Christian organization and benefits from partnering with other faith-based organizations.
Finally, I wanted to give you one last example of how all these elements have come together recently to support government relief efforts during natural disasters such as Hurricane Irene, which hit the East Coast several weeks ago, or the tornadoes and floods that wreaked havoc on parts of the Midwest this past spring. As much as they tear communities apart, these natural disasters also bring people. Citizens feel a strong need to act, and they turn to volunteer organizations such as Hands On to find opportunities to put their skills to use. Hands On develops strong partnerships in communities with local governments, which means that they are ready to support local governments in times of disaster. Knowing that natural disasters can strike whenever, wherever, and with little notice, they also created a manual, Ready to Respond, that provides guidance to better prepare communities for emergencies and for the convergence of spontaneous volunteers. Hands On action centers keep lists throughout the year of disaster response volunteers who can be ready at a moment’s notice to meet the needs of their communities based on their skills. As Hurricane Irene made its way up the East Coast, these action centers kept their volunteers notified of needs that were developing and how they could help. The Internet has been an amazingly effective tool in recruiting and organizing volunteers for these efforts, matching the needs of the communities to the skills of the volunteers. The damage done by Hurricane Irene turned out to be less severe than it could have been. But this past spring, we saw many disaster teams spring into action to help communities in the South and the Midwest ravaged by tornadoes and flooding. In April, a devastating tornado killed over 100 people in Birmingham, Alabama. Over the following months, over 100,000 volunteers from over three dozen organizations descended on Birmingham. Voluntary agencies and faith-based groups provided debris cleanup teams, chainsaw crews, childcare, laundry services, tree removal, home repairs, gutting, tarping, emotional/spiritual assistance and more than 1 million meals prepared and served. Hands On Birmingham helped to coordinate volunteers, registering more than 30,000 volunteers. Corporate support remains important in disaster relief as well. For example, an IBM employee a software engineer in Oregon deployed to Memphis, Tennessee as part of a Red Cross Disaster Action Team after disastrous floods in the spring 2010. He took control of a vacant building and turned it into a functioning disaster headquarters, complete with two satellite communication links, 50+ workstations, printers, fax machines, networking and radio communications. In less than a week, the Red Cross assembled over 500 staff and tons of supplies to feed, shelter, and comfort the thousands of people affected by the flooding. UPS has provided grants to the Hands On Network to support action centers in areas of the Gulf Coast that were affected by last year’s oil spill. Of course, all disaster response preparation and action must be carefully coordinated with government. During Hurricane Irene, the director of disaster services for Hands On worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Corporation for National Community Service to support local efforts, receiving briefings from the President and governors of each state affected by the storm and information on post-storm needs. And this past spring, AmeriCorps volunteers deployed to the Midwest and the South to help repair communities and coordinate volunteers who wanted to help.
Since I arrived in Spain a year and a half ago, I have been learning about the current state of civil society and the voluntary sector. Many people told me that it is not as well developed as in the United States and that most people still look to the government, the Church and the family to solve problems. In my time here, I’ve observed several examples of inspiring community service and volunteerism in Spain. I am impressed by the role of regional governments in promoting volunteerism and by the Plataforma del Voluntariado in linking potential volunteers to non-profit organizations. Madrid City Hall recently opened an Office of Social Innovation, similar to the White House Office of Social Innovation, which will help to expand these efforts.
I am also impressed by a new program called Empieza por Educar. Inspired by Teach for America, this year the program will send thirty Spanish tutors to teach for two years in underserved schools in Cataluña and the Comunidad de Madrid. Empieza por Educar is supported by the Botin Foundation and corporate sponsors such as La Caixa, Barclays, and Deloitte. When I asked one of the participants why she gave up a lucrative career to teach, she said: “I want to change the world.” I’ve also seen some evidence of corporate volunteering programs, such as Alcoa Spain, which has achieved an 80% employee volunteer rate. Employees participate in corporate programs designed by the company and its Foundation, and Alcoa donates money to each NGO in this program.
One of my goals as Ambassador has been to share the American experience of volunteerism and community service. To do this, the Embassy is taking a multifaceted approach. We are working to support exchanges between the United States and Spain that focus on volunteerism and community service. This year, we will send a group of Spaniards involved in volunteerism to the United States for two weeks to meet with their American counterparts and share best practices. I myself will be speaking to the national conference on volunteerism in Galicia later this year. We are working to showcase volunteerism through our Embassy website, and we are working with the Comunidad de Madrid and the Fulbright Commission to instill the values of service in the next generation through a new service learning program. The Embassy community has started a group called Volunteers in Action, chaired by my wife Susan, to help support NGOs and address problems here in Spain. In June, the Embassy held a service day during which Embassy employees and their families volunteered throughout the Madrid area. We are planning an Embassy blood drive as part of our September 11 commemorations next week. Finally, the Embassy is organizing a conference on volunteerism to coincide with the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and service day in mid-January. The conference will feature experts from the United States, Spain and Europe to discuss the value of promoting volunteerism in a period of economic crisis. Please keep in touch with us through our Web site for information on this event. -------------------------- (Picture of Econ Officer Ari Nathan working in a classroom through the Junior Achievement program.)
In a time of economic stress throughout the world, and especially in Spain, what lessons from the American experience can communities and leaders here draw on? In addition to what I’ve described, let me suggest a few more. First, outreach to youth. We have seen in the M-15 protests in Spain and in the Arab Spring evidence that young people today can organize to amazing effect using technology. We need to reach them through these same technologies and harness both their energy and their discontent into constructive action to improve the world. I know that you are already doing serious outreach to young people. In March, I visited the University of Cordoba, where the Plataforma del Voluntariado was working with student organizations to sponsor a volunteerism fair. These kinds of efforts are essential to reaching young people and can be coordinated with campus service days or spring break service projects.
It is essential to engage the private sector as well as government. In the United States, tax incentives for individuals and corporations have been an important tool. Encouraging companies to support employee volunteerism, including company-wide service days and paid time for volunteering, is also successful, and it should be promoted and supported by NGOs. People want to work for companies that are committed to their communities, and serving together builds teamwork and morale. In a time of budget cuts across local and national governments, we need to look to government as a partner, not just as a source of funding. For example, City Year’s efforts to reduce the high school dropout rate support the goals and complement the resources of local boards of education and the schools themselves. In order to effectively engage the private sector and government, we also need to measure the value of volunteer service. Investing in research pays off by clearly demonstrating how volunteerism contributes to solving real problems. ------- Photo shows Fidelity Investment employees building an outdoor learning space at a middle school in Roxbury, Massachusetts through the Hands On network.
Finally, using service to bring people together. The Martin Luther King Holiday is promoted as “a day on, not a day off,” encouraging people to remember Dr. King through service to their communities. In a few days, the United States will commemorate the 10 th anniversary of the September 11 attacks with a National Day of Service and Remembrance. As President Obama recently noted in his weekly address: “Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost; a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11.” These kinds of commemorations bring people together, reminding them of their shared values. They help promote volunteerism, leading to sustained commitment to specific organizations or causes.
There is no doubt we live in difficult times. The challenges are many and complex, but they are not insurmountable. The work that you do is essential to coordinate and enhance the efforts of government, the private sector, NGOs, faith-based organizations and private citizens. By engaging in service together, groups of ordinary citizens can accomplish extraordinary things. Thank you for your time, and thank you for your service. -------------------------------- President Obama Unveils ‘United We Serve,’ Calls on All Americans to Commit to Meaningful Volunteer Service in Their Daily Lives. (2009, June 17). Retrieved April 15, 2010 from http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/President-Obama-Unveils-United-We-Serve-Calls-on-All- Americans-to-Commit-to-Meaningful-Volunteer-Service-in-Their-Daily-Lives.
Alan d salomont
Why do Americans serve? Three prerequisites for civic engagement: <ul><li>Big problems </li></ul><ul><li>Inspired leadership </li></ul><ul><li>A generation eager to engage </li></ul>
Why do Americans serve? To solve big problems <ul><li>Americans believe that individuals can make a difference in solving big problems related to: poverty, education, health needs, the environment, homelessness, immigration, economic and racial inequality, the economic crisis. </li></ul><ul><li>Americans believe these problems can’t be solved by one sector alone: not government, not the private sector, not the NGO sector acting on its own. </li></ul><ul><li>Compassion surge: tradition of helping neighbors when in need. </li></ul>
Why do Americans serve? To solve big problems City Year lowers high school dropout rates <ul><li>City Year inspired the creation of a national service program, AmeriCorps. </li></ul><ul><li>City Year has adapted its mission to meet serious problems and demonstrate impact. Volunteers reduce high school dropout rates through mentoring and tutoring. </li></ul><ul><li>In 2010, 90% of all students tutored by City Year improved their literacy scores. </li></ul>
Why do Americans serve? Inspired leadership <ul><li>“ Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” </li></ul><ul><li>John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961 </li></ul>
Why do Americans serve? Presidential leadership <ul><li>In 1965, President Johnson launches Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). </li></ul><ul><li>In 1993, President Clinton establishes the Corporation for National and Community Service to house VISTA and the new AmeriCorps program. </li></ul>
Why do Americans serve? Corporation for National and Community Service <ul><li>The Corporation for National and Community Service provides Americans with opportunities to solve the problems of their communities. </li></ul><ul><li>It empowers communities by supporting volunteer organizations through grants, training, and technical assistance. </li></ul><ul><li>The CNCS links volunteers and volunteer organizations through Serve.gov. </li></ul>
Why do Americans serve? “I will make service a cause of my presidency.” Senator Barack Obama <ul><li>President-Elect Obama and family spent Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2009 working at a homeless shelter for teens. </li></ul><ul><li>In April 2009, President Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, tripling AmeriCorps by 2017. </li></ul>
Why do Americans serve? <ul><li>“ Solutions to America’s problems are being developed every day at the grass roots—and government shouldn’t be supplanting those efforts, it should be supporting those efforts.” </li></ul><ul><li> -President Barack Obama, June 30, 2009 </li></ul>
Why do Americans serve? Local leadership. <ul><li>Local leaders, Republicans and Democrats, recognize the value of volunteerism in their communities. </li></ul><ul><li>New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg founded Cities of Service to harness the work of volunteers to meet the needs of their cities. </li></ul><ul><li>Cities of Service now includes over 100 mayors and their cities. </li></ul>
Why do Americans serve? Willing generations <ul><li>Each generation of Americans mobilizes to meet the greatest challenges of their era through service. </li></ul>
Why do Americans serve? Millennial Generation Makes a Difference <ul><li>The “Millennial Generation” is leading the way in forming a service culture. They’ve grown up in an era of big problems, and they want to solve them. </li></ul>“ They have become a generation of activists possessed with that most American of ideas—that people who love their country can change it.” – President Barack Obama
What works? Service learning <ul><li>Maryland was the first state to require community service credits for high school graduation. </li></ul><ul><li>Service-learning requirements are becoming common at city and district levels. </li></ul><ul><li>Chicago requires sophomores to have served 20 hours before they are promoted and 40 hours before graduation. </li></ul><ul><li>CNCS supports service learning through Learn and Serve America. </li></ul>
What works? Faith-based volunteering. <ul><li>34% of Americans volunteer through religious organizations. This is especially true of older Americans and minorities. </li></ul><ul><li>Volunteers through faith-based organizations are more likely to keep serving. </li></ul><ul><li>Non-profits benefit by partnering with faith-based organizations. </li></ul>
What works? Corporate support: Timberland <ul><li>City Year approached The Timberland Company in 1989 to provide 50 pairs of boots for their volunteers. </li></ul><ul><li>Timberland designed the red jackets that are now the symbol of City Year. </li></ul><ul><li>Timberland gives staff the benefit of 40 paid hours per year for community service. </li></ul>
What works? Support volunteers and organizations: Hands On Network <ul><li>Hands On Network is the largest volunteer network in the nation with more than 250 HandsOn Action Centers. </li></ul><ul><li>Supports non-profit development, provides orientation for volunteers and links volunteers to opportunities for flexible volunteering or skilled volunteering. </li></ul><ul><li>Encourages companies to find sponsorship opportunities and get their employees involved in volunteering. </li></ul>
What works? A multi-faceted approach: Habitat for Humanity <ul><li>Founded in 1976 to build affordable homes for low-income families. </li></ul><ul><li>Building materials are almost entirely supplied by corporate donors, providing 22% of income. </li></ul><ul><li>Collegiate Challenge gets students to donate their spring break to building Habitat homes. </li></ul><ul><li>Works on rehabilitating housing in neighborhoods and using green building techniques. </li></ul>President Jimmy Carter
What works? Preparing for and Responding to Disasters <ul><li>Volunteers can play an enormously important role when they are well coordinated. </li></ul><ul><li>Volunteer organizations can support government disaster organizations, such as FEMA, in relief efforts. </li></ul><ul><li>Preparation counts: disaster readiness teams, strong relationships with local government, and emergency plans </li></ul>
What’s happening in Spain? A growing commitment to volunteerism. <ul><li>Strong government involvement with regional volunteer coordinators. </li></ul><ul><li>Strong volunteer and non-profit resources such as Plataforma del Voluntariado. </li></ul><ul><li>New local initiatives such as the Oficina de Innovación Social in Madrid </li></ul><ul><li>Student engagement </li></ul>
What’s happening in Spain? A growing commitment to volunteerism. <ul><li>Empieza por Educar: Inspired by Teach for America </li></ul><ul><li>Corporate volunteering: 80% of Alcoa Spain’s employees volunteer, and Alcoa donates $3000 to each NGO they work with. </li></ul><ul><li>School community service </li></ul>
What is U.S. Embassy Madrid doing? <ul><li>Sharing best practices through speakers, outreach, exchange programs and conferences </li></ul><ul><li>Showcase volunteerism </li></ul><ul><li>Support service learning in schools </li></ul><ul><li>Volunteers in Action help solve problems through Embassy volunteering </li></ul><ul><li>January 2012 conference </li></ul>
Lessons Learned: Engaging Youth <ul><li>Service-learning and service graduation requirements instill an ethic of service </li></ul><ul><li>Alternative spring breaks mobilize students </li></ul><ul><li>Campus-wide service days at universities and schools </li></ul><ul><li>“ Commencement challenge” </li></ul>
Lessons Learned: Engaging Business and Government <ul><li>Corporate volunteering, company-wide service days and skill-based volunteering </li></ul><ul><li>Supporting government initiatives through volunteer resources </li></ul><ul><li>Research to quantify the benefits of volunteer service </li></ul>
Lessons Learned: Bringing People Together <ul><li>Local and national service days to commemorate events or people unite communities and promote volunteer opportunities </li></ul><ul><li>Engaging a variety of actors to unite around the same goal </li></ul>
“ Economic recovery is as much about what you’re doing in your communities as what we’re doing in Washington –and it’s going to take all of us, working together.” President Barack Obama, June 17, 2009