On the third day of cyzygy, I listened to many speeches, heard Bill Clinton speak, visited Central High School--of Little Rock Nine fame--and--what I will highlight--participated in cyzygy's annual National Policy Forum. The National Policy Forum brought together individuals from various AmeriCorps programs, City Year, and the National Service Community at large to discuss issues of funding and growing the national service movement in America. It was inspiring to hear a panel talk about the difficulties of running an AmeriCorps program and how to overcome them. I was moved to act by the great question and answer period that followed. The session ended with General Wesley Clark giving a speech about National Service and how he thinks is best to grow the program. As chairman of City Year Little Rock's board and an uber-public servant, he had some credible and insightful comments. As the highlight of my day and (almost) week, I include my notes from this session below.
National Service Public Policy Panel
Methods to Build the Public Support
- Through relationships persistence and energy in converting public policy to the Idealism of National Service
- Good knowledge of the programs on the ground
- Foster and maintain a continuous bully pulpit
- The myth has to be debunked volunteerism is not free, it needs infrastructure and resources; there are a multiplicity of rewards
- Theory of Asset-Based Community Development the idea of stone soup: start with what resources you have and find a way to grow them\r\n
- Use experiences to help people get it
Dealing with Negatives and Conflicts
- Help people to see and understand the positives
- General collaboration is tough use experience to tie to understanding
- Give it a chance to work if it doesn't, we'll punt and try something else
- Get civically active as an alumni of a National Service Program
How to get the Next Generation Involved
- Get involved, work your way onto boards, organize the alumni around the issue of National Service
- Every generation must renew the effort to grab the next generation
- AmeriCorps and the National Service Movement needs a way to locate and organize alumni in an effort to support National Service
How do we move from going to the policy maker's events to the policy maker coming to our events?
Make the government be ruled by you AmeriCorps members and alumni.
General Wesley Clark's Remarks at the Public Policy Forum Non-Profit and National Service Ideals
- Build programs centered around community's needs
- Easily measurable goals with accountability
- Must be successful
- This is also how to grow programs and move them forward
- Need to demonstrate to young people that these programs are real and have a substantial impact on the community
- Need to reach out to people like returning veterans and skilled people who want to give of all ages, not just young people
- Marketing How do we get the message out to the public?
- Talk more about AmeriCorps alumni, where are they?
- Tap into churches; make them cognizant of the movement
- Need media friends to carry our message
- Need the support and attention of academia
Quotes from General Clark's Answers to Participants Questions (one of which was mine :))
Leadership starts at the bottom not the top in America Leadership starts here.
The most powerful force is the individual seeking the best for his family
Take forward the programs we believe in
The hard work is where you get your value
Always a challenge since we are appealing to the selflessness in people