Service Year Alliance: Making National Service an Opportunity for All Young Americans

Service Year Alliance, a new member of Independent Sector, is working to make a year of paid, full-time service — a service year — a common expectation and opportunity for all young Americans. The Alliance’s vision is to make national service part of growing up in America.

Kristen Bennett

We spoke with Kristen Bennett, Chief Strategy Officer at Service Year Alliance, about the power of national service to make a difference in communities across the country.

IS: Tell us about your organization’s areas of interest and the community or communities you serve.

KB: Nonprofits rely on people power to succeed. National service programs power nonprofits, helping them build capacity and improving organizations’ ability to meet their missions and achieve their desired impact. National service builds a talent pipeline into the nonprofit sector. By investing in and expanding national service, we will be ensuring that the next generation is both civic-minded and armed with the skills they need to help nonprofits be successful.

IS: As an Independent Sector community member, what are you looking forward to that will help your organization better achieve your mission and serve your community?

KB: We look forward to working closely with the nonprofit community to rebuild the country’s civic infrastructure. Service Year Alliance believes there is a real opportunity to make national service an accessible option for all young Americans, while also giving all nonprofits the opportunity to utilize national service. We also look forward to learning more about the organizations that make up Independent Sector and how we can partner on shared goals.

Service Year Alliance is committed to reimagining what it means to serve our country so that every young person in America has the opportunity to serve and views it as an accessible option. We believe a reimagined national service would reach more underrepresented communities and be truly accessible to all young people. Through a bold transformation of national service and the breaking down of barriers to make national service more equitable and inclusive, national service has the potential to truly become a universal option for all.

Specifically, we are eager to work with IS on the fellowship model for national service that the Nonprofit Infrastructure Investment Advocacy Group (NIIAG) recently proposed to give all nonprofit organizations access to national service. Fellowships have the potential to swiftly deploy corps members across the country, give people choice in where they serve, connect national service more directly to local and state needs, and provide additional support to organizations in order to help meet communities’ unmet needs.

Photo courtesy of Service Year Alliance

Finally, we look forward to sharing more about our network of Service Year Impact Communities with the IS community and involving fellow members in the work we are doing at the local level to expand national service in communities. We are committed to supporting local communities in their efforts to make national service a common expectation and opportunity in cities and states across the country. Our Impact Communities are a network of 11 diverse communities that are fostering relationships with local and state champions while working to bring universal national service to life in their communities.

IS: What are some of your organization’s core or special programs that support people and help make your community and the nonprofit sector stronger?

KB: Serve America Together is our campaign to make national service part of growing up in America. The campaign is led by a first-of-its-kind coalition of over two dozen military and civilian service organizations, as well as civic health and faith groups. It is championed by a high-profile collection of bipartisan co-chairs, including Gen. (Ret.) Stan McChrystal, Howard Schultz, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, former Congressman Joe Heck, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Arianna Huffington, Laura Lauder, Andrew Hauptman, and Jeff Huber.

We believe civilian national service should:

  • exist at scale, engaging at least one million young Americans in civilian national service annually,
  • address America’s unmet needs,
  • bridge divides and fuel civic renewal,
  • be an opportunity for all, and
  • build pathways to long-term success for individuals who serve through benefits and connectivity to future education and careers.

Approximately 75,000 people participate in national service each year. Hearing the stories of people serving our communities on a daily basis is a constant reminder of the power of national service to create a civically engaged, healthier, and more equitable society.

Read Service Year Alliance CEO Jesse Colvin’s essay from September 22, 2020, “Investing in National Service Can Rebuild Our Civic Infrastructure.” Service Year Alliance is a member of the Nonprofit Infrastructure Investment Advocacy Group (NIIAG), which was co-founded by Independent Sector and KABOOM! The top photo is courtesy of Service Year Alliance. Learn about other Independent Sector members and becoming a member.

Types: Blog
Global Topics: ChangeWorks, Civil Society, Community, Dialogue, Dignity, Identity, Infrastructure, Innovation, IS Member, Leadership Development, Purpose, Race, Equity, and Inclusion, Voice
Focus Areas: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Policy Issues: Civil Society Infrastructure