Estimated duration
3 years
Estimated total value
Northern America
United States
Lumina Foundation For Education, Inc; Joshua Bekenstein; ServiceNation; Funny or Die; Cisco; Jeannie Lavine; The Aspen Institute; Comcast Corporation; Tumblr; Airbnb, Inc.; National Conference on Citizenship; Voices for National Service; Anita Bekenstein; National Service Alliance

Making a Service Year Part of American Life


In 2014, the National Service Alliance joined forces with the Cisco Fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the Lumina Foundation to launch Service Year, a four-year campaign to encourage 18-28 year olds to engage in a year of service as a strategy to tackle the nation’s most pressing challenges, while empowering and developing the next generation of civic leaders. To popularize the idea of young Americans doing a year of service, this initiative also aims to engage and leverage the entertainment and media industries to integrate the Service Year concept into scripts of television shows.


In 2014, the National Service Alliance joined forces with the Cisco Fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the Lumina Foundation to launch Service Year, a four-year campaign to encourage 18-28 year olds to engage in a year of service as a strategy to tackle the nation’s most pressing challenges, while empowering and developing the next generation of civic leaders. By 2017, this initiative aims to create 30,000 new Service Year opportunities, with the goal of creating one million service opportunities annually by 2023. To popularize the idea of young Americans doing a year of service, this initiative also aims to engage and leverage the entertainment and media industries to integrate the Service Year concept into scripts of television shows.
The collaborative effort will focus on a variety of strategies in the following five areas:
Technology – An online platform, called the Service Year Exchange, will be developed to allow prospective corps members to find service opportunities, fundraise for the organizations in which they will serve, document and share their experiences, take online courses related to their service opportunity, and assess knowledge gained through the experience. The Cisco Fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation will launch a challenge grant to ensure the initial release of the exchange is delivered on schedule, while inspiring others to support the development of the platform and staff the ongoing technology operations.
Education – The National Service Alliance and its partners aim to secure 150 higher education institution partners to recruit and enroll 10,000 Service Year Corps members. The Lumina Foundation, which has contributed funding to help build the Service Year Exchange, will work with the Center for Adult and Experiential Learning to translate the Service Year into a college credit-earning experience that leads to a Service Year Transcript.
Culture – To popularize the concept of young Americans engaging in a year of service, the campaign will leverage Hollywood (through script integration and celebrity support), digital platforms and influencers, and media. ServiceNation, a member of the National Service Alliance, will contribute expertise and capacity to develop robust partnerships with these industries. Jonathan and Jeannie Lavine have committed million to support ServiceNation in its goal to expand national service opportunities and create a cultural expectation of a service year for young Americans.
Employment – Promoting service as a path to employment will open up the Service Year to Opportunity Youth, 16-24 year olds who are not in school and not employed and who seek opportunities to re-engage and attain employable skills. The Franklin Project is committed to working with partners to develop a long-term vision for employer engagement and to advance this concept to ensure that a Service Year becomes part of a credentialed pathway leading to full-time employment.
Communications – Voices for National Service, a lead commitment partner, will partner with FrameWorks Institute, a nonpro?t research firm designed to advance the nonpro?t sector’s communications capacity, to research, deconstruct, test, and validate the negative frames and the potential positive frames to improve the Service Year experience. These insights and messages will be used to shape a new national communications campaign and field trainings led by Voices for National Service.
Finally, to support Service Year Corps members during their transition to new cities for their year of service, Airbnb, the global hospitality company, will provide 1,000 Corps members with transitional accommodations as they embark on their Service Year opportunity. Airbnb, which aims to strengthen and support the cities and neighborhoods it serves, has committed to an initial contribution of ,000 to support this effort.
Baseline polling to understand millennial perspective and awareness about national service
Cultural campaign launch event in Hollywood with initial content roll-out and script integration
Development of partnership framework with Corporation for National and Community Service, AmeriCorps Alums, Peace Corps, and the Franklin Project
Initial convening to get buy-in from employers
Manual testing of the core Service Year position certification process
FrameWorks Institute Partnership Phase One: Data collection and analysis to determine the successes and challenges of the current discourse on national service
Action plan written with input from employers
Criteria developed for ‘Employers of Service’
Local launch of tech platform, early adopters testing
Service Year integration in TV shows, celebrity engagement, and digital content; Tech platform public launch (Q4)
Ongoing script integration, celebrity engagement, and digital content promoting Service Year
Development of Service Year Credential (Q4)
FrameWorks Institute Partnership Phase Two: Metaphor Development and Frame Testing
Frameworks Institute Partnership Phase Three: Begin to design and execute communications and public relations campaign with media and message consultants, including field education and message trainings
Cultural campaign convening to analyze campaign metrics
At least 50 employers leveraging credential to incentivize Service Year in hiring processes
Tech platform to launch education portal functionality
Full-fledged tech platform in operation
Continuation of frameworks Institute Partnership Phase Three; a sharpened public engagement strategy will include new spokespeople, alliances, events, and additional outreach opportunities
Cultural campaign concludes with massive increase in number of millennials considering and applying for a service year


The United States is facing major challenges: traditional communities and social structures have begun to come apart. One million students drop out of school each year and 17 percent of youth aged 16-24 are out of school and work (Belfield, Levin, and Rosen ‘The Economic Value of Opportunity Youth’, 2012). Nearly 20% of children are living in poverty. Trust and empathy are declining while Americans are self-segregating by class, race, ethnicity, and political party. As a nation, the population is more diverse than ever, but doing less together. The causes of these problems are many, but by creating a sense of common purpose rooted in active citizenship, the country can reverse these trends. By giving young Americans a stake in the outcome of their communities, they are empowered to solve social ills and renew the country’s civic identity.
The National Service Alliance was formed because large-scale national service can help reconcile these problems. The National Service Alliance believes that a generation of Americans spending a year in full-time service is a transformative idea that will unleash a reservoir of human capital to tackle pressing social challenges, unite diverse Americans in common purpose, and cultivate the next generation of leaders. The United States needs national service and everyone should have the opportunity to serve.

Progress Update

May 2016

The biggest update is that three of the organizations in this commitment merged in 2015. The Franklin Project, ServiceNation, and the Service Year Exchange, which was incubated by the National Conference on Citizenship, have merged into a new, single organization called the Service Year Alliance. The organization has become a joint venture between Be The Change, Inc. and The Aspen Institute, with General (Ret.) Stanley McChrystal serving as Chair of the board.

The organizations merged because the stakes are too high to continue working individually. By officially joining forces, each of the organizations’ individual priorities will be significantly enhanced through greater capacity, more resources, and a comprehensive overall strategy. It is extremely rare for three organizations to become one in order to better serve a cause. That being said, this merger happened, in part, because of the CGI commitment the organizations made together in 2014.

The vision and goal for the Service Year Alliance is not new, but because of this merger, the ability to achieve these targets is. SYA has planned to release a new plan to scale national service “to be released in mid-2016.” This will be the first time this level of detail, breadth, and collaboration has been devoted to reaching a vision of this magnitude.

Using baseline polling to understand millennial perspective and awareness about national service
In July and August 2015, SYA worked with Penn Schoen Berland (PSB), a Burson Marsteller agency, which fielded five-day online discussion boards with high school students (ages 14-17), young adults (ages 18-24), and parents with children in these age bands to better understand the ecosystem in which the concept of a service year operates. The findings were validated in a quantitative research survey that tested various names, messages and narratives and revealed that initial low awareness of the service year opportunity could be overcome with an investment in messaging. All the work by PSB was done on a pro bono basis with a market value of $120K.

Burson Marsteller has now taken the PSB findings, supplementing them with a communications audit and competitive review, and has planned to translate them into an integrated marketing plan in Q2 2016. This work has also been planned on a pro bono basis, market value $50K. Branding agencies are currently being interviewed for selection the week of March 7th to create the brand story, strategy, architecture, and identity elements on a low bono basis.

There has been progress on the ongoing script integration, celebrity engagement, and digital content promoting Service Year. In March 2015, Service Year Alliance launched the Serve A Year campaign at the Jimmy Kimmel Live! studio in Hollywood, CA, and Chelsea Clinton and Jimmy Kimmel hosted. The event was attended by over 350 Hollywood executives, writers and producers, tech entrepreneurs and senior corporate executives and was followed up by a national television appearance of Chelsea Clinton announcing the campaign on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Jimmy and Chelsea also did a comedy segment introducing national service to a new audience on television and online that was watched over 320,000 times online in addition to the 2.1 million viewers who typically tune in each night to Jimmy Kimmel Live! on ABC since JKL! was the top-rated late night show on Monday. Outside of LA, pictures and videos shared about and from the event had nearly 22 million impressions within a week. This was an historic day for the national service movement whereby the movement broke into new territory that has never been explored in this field, reaching more people and engaging new partners to make a year of service part of the American way of life.

Two new partnerships were announced at the Serve A Year launch with Tumblr and Funny Or Die. Tumblr is a social networking with 228.7 million active users and is committing to work with their team of artists in their new creative lab called the Creatrs Network “an initiative that links Tumblr-native artists, gif-makers, photographers and videographers with brands and causes “to create Serve A Year-specific content that will introduce the idea of a service year to a new generation. ServiceNation is Tumblr’s first official cause partnership. Funny or Die, a digital video platform with over 60 million monthly viewers, has committed to the creation and distribution of videos for the campaign.

In addition to the campaign launch, Service Year Alliance continued with script integration work in 2015. A character on ABC’s Melissa & Joey joined AmeriCorps, marking the first time in TV history that a character joined AmeriCorps as a part of the storyline. Parks and Rec featured national service as part of the plot. ABC’s The Middle aired a new storyline in which the character Brad decides to serve a year with AmeriCorps. This is the first time in TV history that a show will follow an AmeriCorps member through a full year of service.

There has been progress on the commitment action plan, which was written with input from employers. On September 14, 2015, Service Year Alliance convened employers and national service leaders at the Aspen Institute for a “Strengthening the National Service to Employment Pipeline” strategy roundtable to chart out a path to take the Employers of National Service initiative to scale. Participants included national service leaders such as the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Director of the Peace Corps, the Executive Director of AmeriCorps Alums, the Executive Director of the National Peace Corps Association, and the co-chair of the Franklin Project; as well as employment leaders such as the Chief Administrative Officer of Sodexo, the Vice President of Human Resources at the American Red Cross, and the Executive Director of the Partnership for Public Service. Feedback was given on strategies already underway, as well as suggestions for new strategies that should be undertaken. Additionally, Service Year Alliance hosted a panel discussion following the strategy roundtable to expose the initiative to a larger audience, both in person and via a live stream.

Progress was made on developing criteria for “Employers of Service.” Due to Service Year Alliance’s success in achieving this goal by the end of 2014, Service Year Alliance was able to spend 2015 focused on scaling the initiative. By the end of 2015, over 300 employers were recruited for the initiative, representing 1.5 million jobs. Major additions in 2015 included major employers such as the Commonwealth of Virginia, the City of New York, NASA, and U.S. Department of State. Service Year Alliance also used 2015 to develop tools to support scale, including handbooks for new participating employers and online sign-up forms. Service Year Alliance has continued to recruit additional employers for the initiative and would love for the Clinton Global Initiative to join.

Progress has been made on the local launch of the tech platform and early adopters testing. From February to May 2015 Service Year Alliance conducted a beta testing phase of the technology platform. During this phase, Service Year Alliance on boarded 13 leading service organizations to enroll in the exchange, become certified, post their positions, and provide feedback on their experience using the technology. These beta partners included Teach for America, National Health Corps, Vet Corps, Citizen Schools, Reading Partners, Food Corps, College Possible, Playworks, YouthBuild USA, USFIRST, Virginia Service and Conservation Corps, All Hands Volunteers, and The Mission Continues. Service Year Alliance actively gathered insight from partners and was able to identify key improvements to the technology based on this beta testing.

Following beta testing, Service Year Alliance launched four Local Pilots of the Service Year Exchange. Three pilots were state-based and done in partnership with State Service Commissions in Iowa, Maine, and Oregon. The fourth pilot was city-based and conducted in partnership with the ServeAustin collaborative in Austin, TX. These Local Pilots ran May-September 2015 and allowed for expansion of the reach of the technology. Through these pilots, continual improvement of technology features, as well as further solidification of the systems for certification review and customer support, was made possible. Service Year Alliance on boarded 40 additional host organizations through the pilots and cultivated four important partnerships with the state commissions and the local Austin collaborative. The support of a local partner was an integral part of the success of the commitment while expanding into the Local Pilot regions, so in Fall 2015 we launched the Service Year Exchange Founding States Initiative. To date, this initiative has expanded state partnerships to a total of 20 states (Arkansas, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin). Through these various local launces and early adopter approaches, over 270 host organizations have been on boarded and over 17,000 service opportunities have gone live on the Service Year Exchange. Service Year Alliance has also developed new Network Organization pages on the exchange to allow State Commissions and other Networks, such as ServeAustin, to have landing pages on the Service Year Exchange.

Progress has been made of the development of service year credential. The development of the Service Year Credential functionalities continued to advance in 2015 with the implementation of several pilots to connect service to academic credit and the development of additional strategies to “badge” the learning that takes place during the service year. On the academic credit front, Service Year Alliance hosted a portfolio assessment based pilot with CAEL and AmeriCorps members and alums across AmeriCorps Alums, Public Allies, and the Corps Network. Service Year Alliance also hosted a Service Year + Higher Education Innovation Challenge that challenged higher education institutions to create new models institution based service years connected to academic credit. Over 200 institutions engaged in the challenge, 32 submitted detailed proposals, and nine were selected as finalists and invited to DC to pitch their ideas, and three won including Miami Dade College in the community college category, Drake University in the private university category, and UMass Dartmouth in the public university category. Given the success of the 2015 challenge, Service Year Alliance has planned on hosting another challenge this year and capturing all of the best practices into a new higher education and service year toolkit that institutions across the nation can use. On the new strategies front, Service Year Alliance secured funding from the Joyce Foundation to explore how the learning that takes place during the service year can be badged. During 2015 Service Year Alliance hosted an initial convening of leaders in the service year field, employers, and badging experts to explore what a common badge framework for service years could look like and selected a partner, the Corps Network, to implement a badging pilot with in 2016.

Addition progress was made in the FrameWorks Institute Partnership Phase Two, Metaphor Development and Frame Testing. In 2015, Voices for National Service contracted Republican polling firm TargetPoint Consulting for a public opinion research project. The research sought to determine how the public understands the issue of national service; which pieces of the national service message, including “access to higher education, job training and skill building, healing a broken citizenship, etc.,” resonate most clearly and effectively; and how likely national service is to influence public support for political candidates. The resulting data would be used to support message development and illuminate demographic strengths or weaknesses, including regional variations and bipartisan appeal.

TargetPoint held an informal focus group with a group of Republican thought leaders to help inform the poll that was conducted in nine states: CO, FL, IA, MI, NV, NH, OH, PA, and VA. Voices for National Service saw tremendous success with the outcomes of this polling project, with extremely high levels of support for national service across all demographic groups. Those surveyed responded that national service strongly reflects the core values of National Service Alliance and 83 percent wanted to increase or maintain funding, including 78 percent of Republicans, 84 percent of Independents, 90 percent of Democrats and 78 percent of Tea Party supporters. The poll received media coverage in the Wall Street Journal and was featured in a New Hampshire Union Leader editorial authored by former Governor John Lynch (D-NH) and former US Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) and was titled, “Something We Can All Agree On.”

Using the results from the research phase, TargetPoint Executive Michael Meyers authored a memorandum to the presidential candidates highlighting why campaigns should take note of the poll findings. Voices and the Service Year Alliance developed a briefing book for presidential campaigns, which included this polling data and a “menu” of national service policy ideas.

With the support of the C.S. Mott Foundation, Voices for National Service has been working on an initiative to understand and document the role of national service members in the field of education. This initiative will equip the national service movement to convey more effectively the impact national service members have on student success and the need to invest in national service to take effective programs to scale and maximize impact.

In 2015, Voices for National Service hosted two convenings of leaders in the education and national service fields. These convenings allowed for a dynamic discussion on the success of existing national service models, the obstacles to scaling such initiatives, and the steps needed to advance partnerships that utilize national service to ensure students receive the support they need throughout the school day, calendar year, and across multiple grades and grade spans. Voices for National Service has gleaned great insight from these discussions and will develop a white paper in the spring 2016 on the role national service can play in meeting student needs at all stages and aspects of their education. The white paper will highlight promising partnerships gaining traction in both large and small communities. The white paper will also provide recommendations, including policy proposals, for establishing a scalable national service model that will increase student engagement and achievement among the nation’s most vulnerable students.

Partnership Opportunities

May 2016

In 2016, Service Year Alliance has planned to release a four year plan which outlines the vision and blueprint to engaging one million young Americans in a service year each year. It will be the first time this level of detail, breadth, and collaboration has been devoted to reaching a vision of this magnitude. In order to get there, Service Year Alliance seeks partners who can host service years, media to build awareness among young people and their parents, and financial resources to invest in the first four years of the plan.

May 2016

Service Year Alliance leaders have been experts in growing the service field. By and for the service field, they have been available to offer best practices and expertise on how to leverage service years to solve community and national challenges.

In addition, Service Year Alliance did something that is very rare in the nonprofit sector by merging three organizations to better accomplish the mission and build a service year movement. Leaders from the Service Year Alliance have also been available to offer best practices and expertise on the merger.

NOTE: This Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action is made, implemented, and tracked by the partners listed. CGI is a program dedicated forging new partnerships, providing technical support, and elevating compelling models with potential to scale. CGI does not directly fund or implement these projects.