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Founded in New York City in 2009 by 17 mayors from across the United States, the Cities of Service coalition is a vibrant and growing network of municipal governments using innovative strategies to effectively leverage citizen service as a reliable tool to achieve measurable impact on pressing local challenges.
Cities of Service builds on the work of the 108th Mayor of New York City, Michael R. Bloomberg, who created the nation’s first high-impact service plan and appointed the nation’s first municipal chief service officer.
Today, nearly 200 mayors are engaging citizens to address critical city needs through impact volunteering. Like the founding mayors, each coalition member is committed to working with other mayors around the country to advance service strategies in their own city by developing and implementing a high-impact service plan.
This step-by-step, how-to guide will give you the information you need to make a compelling case to your mayor to make your city a city of service.
1. A group of city residents who would like to see your mayor join the coalition.
2. A letter to your mayor, signed by local residents, listing reasons why s/he should join Cities of Service (see Cities of Service Benefits box on page 10).
a. The letter should inform your mayor of the requirements for joining: signing the Declaration of Service, pledging to create a high-impact service plan for your city, and sharing ideas and best practices with other coalition members.
b. Note that there is no fee for membership in Cities of Service.
c. Be sure to include the Cities of Service contact information: email@example.com.
3. A meeting with your mayor, or, in larger cities, a key staff person with direct access to the mayor.
4. A copy of the Declaration of Service to share with your mayor (included within this Blueprint and available at www.citiesofservice.jhu.edu/content/declaration-of-service).
Executing the Plan
1. Recruit others to join you. Reach out to neighbors, family members, volunteer and civic groups, block clubs and neighborhood associations, schools and higher education institutions, foundations, philanthropists, local business leaders, and nonprofit leaders to show your mayor strong community support for joining Cities of Service.
2. Secure a meeting with your mayor. In some cities, it may be fairly easy to get a meeting with your mayor. In other cities, request a meeting with a high-level city official who has access to the mayor (e.g., deputy mayor, city manager, chief of staff, council member, commissioner or department head, volunteer manager, etc.). It may be helpful to find someone who knows the mayor and/or a senior staff member who can request and attend the meeting with you.
3. Make your case to your mayor (or his/her senior representative). Being a part of Cities of Service allows mayors to make measurable impact on pressing city needs, increase community engagement, and improve the city’s civic health (check out your city’s Civic Health Score at https://ncoc.org/chi/). Mayors have also joined the coalition because it enables them to bring positive recognition to their cities and to actively support residents who are helping to revitalize their own neighborhoods.
a. Brainstorm ways that your city could benefit from directing volunteers in targeted initiatives that address key community problems. (See the Cities of Service Blueprints for ideas: www.citiesofservice.jhu.edu/resources/.)
b. Many mayors want to make use of every possible resource to advance their city. Leveraging volunteers has been shown to help cities move the needle against pressing challenges. Show your mayor that Cities of Service is a proven approach that is working in a variety of locales by printing out a list of cities in the coalition, including any in your state or region. (Go to www.citiesofservice.jhu.edu/coalition for a complete list.)
c. There is no cost to join the coalition, and joining gives the city many benefits. (See Cities of Service Benefits box on page 10.)
4. Get a commitment from your mayor. To join the coalition, the mayor must sign the Declaration of Service. Once s/he has signed the Declaration and filled out the contact information, the city government representative can email it to Cities of Service at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Measuring the Impact
Tracking the impact of this blueprint is simple:
- Did your mayor join the coalition?
Additional metrics to be collected over time:
- Did the city create a high-impact service plan?
- How many impact volunteering initiatives have been launched?
- How many people have benefited from the impact volunteering initiatives?
- Did the city appoint a chief service officer?