The National Museum and Center for Service, a new IS member, is working in collaboration with Independent Sector, service organizations, and local communities to create a nationwide network with local exhibitions of service in nearly every community in the nation. They’re also collaborating on a signature national museum of service planned to be located near the National Mall in Washington, DC.
We talked with Brian Baird, organization founder and board chair, and former Member of Congress, about their mission and plans for the museum.
IS: Tell us about the beliefs and vision driving the aspirations for the museum.
BB: The American spirit of service is fundamental to our national character and essential to our democracy. Members of Independent Sector know this better than anyone because you embody and demonstrate the value of service every day. But as important as service is to our nation and our communities, nowhere in our nation is there a dedicated physical place to honor, inspire, and tell the stories of service in ALL its many forms. The mission of the National Museum and Center for Service is to change that.
We believe service is America’s best story, but that story is not being told. We are also deeply concerned that our nation is becoming more and more divided, and that even trust and respect for the nonprofit sector has declined. Service, perhaps better than anything else, has the power to help us unite again and restore a shared sense of civic purpose. Through shared service for a higher purpose, we discover ways to respect differences as we transcend divisions. Our nation and the world need that right now.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve.” By creating local exhibitions of service we can celebrate that greatness and connect people to how they can participate and contribute. Members of Independent Sector know well how challenging it can be to get the word out about their work. They also know how important it is to do so because there is always a need for more volunteers, financial resources, and community awareness.
IS: What is guiding your efforts to support communities as you develop the museum?
BB: Three key ingredients guide our efforts.
1. Every community has organizations and individuals dedicated to service through their professions, as
members of nonprofit organizations, as volunteers, or through charitable and philanthropic giving.
2. Every community has available public and private spaces – libraries, schools, community centers, etc.
– where people already go and where service exhibitions can be placed so people can learn of all the
remarkable ways service is taking place and how they, too, can become involved.
3. Every community and every organization has existing local talent and resources – with a bit of
guidance and some examples – to create engaging, moving, and informative exhibitions that are
affordable, show the diversity and dignity of all those who serve and receive services, and can be
continually renewed and refreshed.
Imagine if young people in schools saw exhibits not just honoring athletic achievements, but demonstrating all the ways students, teachers, staff, and alums participate in service. Imagine if in the entrances to or on the walls in libraries and other public spaces visitors encountered pictures and stories, or perhaps even short videos or interactive experiences, displaying how their own community is shaped by service and honoring their neighbors who are working and giving of themselves to make a difference. With collaboration and creativity, stories of service can be shared almost anywhere, which is fitting because service, in some form, is happening everywhere.
You can find more here on our website about our plans to partner with higher education institutions, public libraries, and schools.
IS: Independent Sector brings together a diverse community of changemakers at nonprofits, foundations, and corporate giving programs that are working to achieve a racially just and healthy sector and nation where all people in the U.S. thrive. What influenced your decision to become an Independent Sector member? How does your work align with Independent Sector’s mission and our member organizations?
BB: We are so pleased to be a member of Independent Sector because the organizations and individuals who are part of Independent Sector are the true everyday heroes of our nation, and it is their work and their stories that we want to convey and support.
Like so many organizations that are part of Independent Sector, our organization was started by and is almost entirely sustained by volunteers, many of whom have long careers and experience in service themselves. We are honored to have earned the endorsements of some of the nation’s most respected service organizations and leaders, and we look forward to participating in and showcasing the great work of Independent Sector and all its members.
Lindsay Marcal is Manager, Membership at Independent Sector.