The Service Year: Unleashing America’s Potential
This week, I joined Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers, along with heads of state, Nobel Prize winners, nonprofit leaders, and influential CEOs for the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI)– whose mission is to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.
When leaders and progressive thinkers of this magnitude join together, it’s impossible not to be inspired by the role technology can play in positively impacting lives around the globe. To date, members of the CGI community, including Cisco, have made more than 2800 Commitments to Action, which have improved the lives of over 430 million people in more than 180 countries.
The 2014 Annual Meeting brought CGI members together under the theme “Reimagining Impact,” guiding members in better measuring and assessing the outcomes of their work, and rethinking how we create value through new approaches to address complex global challenges going forward.
Big ideas can change the world, and that’s why I truly believe in the big idea of national service. Young Americans today are facing the crisis of unraveling traditional communities and social structures. In fact, 1 million students drop out of school each year, and 17% of youth aged 16 to 24 are out of school and work. This isn’t just a problem about unemployment or a weak future workforce – it escalates to encompass poverty, illiteracy, food insecurity, homelessness, and a lack of healthcare – leading to a weakened civilization.
Earlier this month, I blogged about AmeriCorps and how we can build tomorrow’s workforce to benefit society. At this year’s CGI meeting, Cisco announced its commitment to “The Service Year: Tackling Problems & Building Citizen Leaders.” By taking our commitment to the next level, we can create a sense of common purpose rooted in active citizenship, and we can reverse this growing sense of disconnectedness. By giving young Americans a stake in the outcome of their communities, we can renew our civic identity while providing people with skills and experiences that they can use throughout their lives.
Cisco was one of the original supporters of the Aspen Institute’s Franklin Project “Service Year,” designed to promote and support national service opportunities. To further this effort, Cisco and Lumina have joined forces with the National Service Alliance, which includes The Franklin Project, the National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC), ServiceNation, and Voices for National Service. The Alliance focuses on large-scale national service to help reconcile these societal problems. They believe 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.
Our joint commitment will focus on a variety of strategies that leverage society’s most influential levers, necessary for sweeping progress. Being an IT company, we chose to provide our core competency to support the Service Year Exchange (SYx). This technology platform will significantly increase the number of available Service Year opportunities by:
- Certifying positions offered by nonprofits, government agencies, colleges, and social enterprises
- Engaging a wide range of donors in funding the positions through crowd funding
- Allowing prospective corps members to find opportunities, fundraise for them, and then document and share their experiences
To build the SYx, Cisco has committed an additional $3 million challenge grant, through the Cisco Fund at Silicon Valley Community Foundation, to ensure the initial release is delivered on schedule, while inspiring others to support the build and staff ongoing technology operations.
The Service Year. It’s a big idea. It’s a bold idea. And, it has the potential shape the future of a nation.
Watch this blog and follow Cisco CSR on Twitter as we continue to discuss ways to multiply impact and bring positive change in the world.