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National Service: A Role Model of Collaboration

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Cassandra L. Argo
May 26, 2015

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines collaboration as “working with another person or group to achieve something.” Working together with a variety of public and private partners to get things done in communities across the country is one of the greatest assets and strengths of national service. Collaboration is the key to the success of AmeriCorps.

The Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS) works with the federal government to ensure continued funding for all of the national service programs. CNCS also builds partnerships with other service oriented businesses and organizations through its “Employers of National Service” campaign. It also works with a number of agencies to to incorporate AmeriCorps into scripts for popular television shows .

A great example of CNCS’ commitment to collaboration across sectors can be found on their “Collaboration, Participation and Transparency” webpage. President Obama’s call for more citizens to get out and serve led to a collaboration between Google, YouTube, Craigslist Foundation, Facebook, UCLA and many others resulting in the creation of All for Good, the most comprehensive volunteer search engine ever created which provides search capabilities for the CNCS’ Serve.gov website. The All for Good website states, “we envision the site as a meeting place for organizations and individuals, providing a communal platform that allows people to see where change is needed, and makes it easy for them to engage.”

This is just one of many examples of how CNCS is using collaboration with both private and public sector entities to further the opportunities for Americans to serve a year. It also shows how economically depressed communities can receive needed assistance to meet their community challenges head on.

In addition to strengthening national service at the federal level, CNCSalso  funnels resources to a state office and state commissions. State commission offices, like my own Volunteer West Virginia, oversee the AmeriCorps State program while the state corporation offices oversee the AmeriCorps VISTA and Senior Corps programs. State offices administer CNCS grant funding as well as work to create strong, effective portfolios of local organizations who work toward meeting needs in economically distressed communities throughout their state.

The chosen organizations become AmeriCorps program sites that focus their attention on the communities and individuals living within that service location. AmeriCorps program sites choose to either run their own programs with members serving on-site or, in many cases, programs choose to invite other organizations within their service areas to partner with them to host members throughout the city, county or region served. AmeriCorps host sites serve as the AmeriCorps members’ home base and work to ensure that the member has the resources necessary to achieve their service goals.

The AmeriCorps members collaborate with community members and agencies to get things done for the community in which they serve. Here in West Virginia, our PreserveWV AmeriCorps members created a strong collaboration with Liberty High School’s ninth grade production class to develop a documentary about the efforts to preserve the historic Helen Apartment Property. They also partner with We Grow: Winding Gulf Restoration Organization, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the National Coal Heritage Area Authority to name a few. The significance of collaboration is not exclusive to West Virginia or any other individual level of national service.

What makes National Service collaborations so successful?  The confidence and dependence of national service on individuals working together with local nonprofits, businesses and government agencies to empower others to take action and to achieve more than anyone thought possible!

If you would like to learn more about how you can collaborate with the Corporation for National & Community Service, what national service options are available to you or to your organization or to join one of AmeriCorps’ programs, visit the Corporation’s website at www.nationalservice.gov or follow them on Facebook and Twitter. Together we can collaborate to strengthen communities!

Author: Cassandra L. Argo, a native Ohioan, is living in West Virginia to realize her dream of serving as an AmeriCorps Program Officer with Volunteer West Virginia, the state’s commission for national & community service. Argo holds a BASW from Asbury University and is an alumna of both the AmeriCorps State and AmeriCorps VISTA programs. Cassandra can be reached at [email protected]

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