Local Impact With Global Value – Cities Of Service At Home And Abroad

December 5, 2015


International Volunteer Day, I think about the impact volunteering happening at the local level in our 200 member cities, including several in the UK.

This week, 12 Chief Service Officers from Richmond, Calif. to Philadelphia and in between – among the first CSOs in the U.S. – convened with us in New York to brainstorm what it takes to create and sustain a culture of service across municipal government agencies, and to support a community of practice for the inspired individuals, necessary networks and city executives who have the talent and creativity – but need the resources and capacity – to make it happen.

Michael Drake, Little Rock, Arkansas’s Chief Service Officer, reminds us that Arkansans have a strong history of citizen service – including a volunteer park ranger corps trained by police and fire departments, formed in the face of dwindling city assets. But it was the city’s impact volunteering strategy formed with Cities of Service that helped to ignite Mayor Mark Stodola’s plan to combat childhood obesity; Michael and his colleagues intensely assessed and addressed specific drivers of the problem, and meaningfully involved citizen volunteers to bring nutrition education and healthy recreation to high-poverty neighborhoods. The initiative, one of multiple in Little Rock, has been recognized nationally as an evidence-based way to improve public health. “Love Your School” has produced additional benefits, including helping parent participants to develop skills that translated into vocational value.

The reality is that worthy projects and efforts are happening in isolation across the country, and elsewhere. Connecting community-based organizations with city agents and assets to align priorities and resources optimizes collective impact. We hear about the results from the cities where our playbook and blueprints are being used and shared. Chief Service Officers in the United Kingdom say they are excited to apply “best techniques and analysis to really get to the heart of the change we want to see.” Similarly, we have heard from city leaders in Greece, who are looking to citizen engagement to renew faith in government and bring the best ideas to life to make a difference in people’s lives.

Multiplying the positive change happening at the local level – from blocks to neighborhoods to cities to states to regions and beyond – has true potential to move the needle on issue areas that affect us globally.

Together, with strong leadership and impact volunteering, we really can change the world. Chief Service Officers across the country and Atlantic, supported by innovative local government leaders and in partnership with dedicated community volunteers, work to do this every day.

The Cities of Service team is honored to help align the stars to advance their work, and we’re here to help enhance yours. Learn how you can get involved.