Guiding Principles for State Service Commissions and the Corporation for National and Community Service

‚ÄčThese guiding principles were voted on and approved by America's Service Commissions Board of Directors on December 17, 2013.
  • As the National Service movement celebrates 20 years of volunteering and service in communities across America, let us pause to restate the basic principles upon which the movement was founded. Frank Dirks simply stated that “The fatal flaw of most ‘movements’ comes when their national agenda dominates their local priorities.”
    ‚Äč
  • Research shows that civic engagement is an indicator of a nation’s health. Both the federal government and state governments have pragmatic reasons for fostering civic engagement and civic health.
  • Social challenges are experienced locally within communities. Local needs and interests are more easily identified through state structures than by large federal bureaucracies, which by their nature are insulated from America’s richly diverse communities.
  • The passage of the legislation creating the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) was a decisive, intentional act by Congress to invest in the infrastructure needed at the local level to further a culture of citizenship, service and responsibility.
  • Critical to National Service’s success is a strong network of state service commissions uniquely positioned to strengthen communities by supporting sustained, well-managed volunteer programming at the local level.
  • The governing structure of state service commissions intentionally brings together a powerful mix of bi-partisan, cross-sector leaders directly connected to the governing authority of each state.
  • These citizen commissioners have great flexibility to identify local issues and build public/private partnerships with nonprofits, educational institutions, foundations, businesses, and state and local governments to address local needs.
  • The effectiveness and sustainability of local efforts increases dramatically when the federal system actively creates an environment in which transparency leads to greater participation, intentional consultation, and reciprocal communication on issues related to policy and practice that play out at the local level.
  • These mutually dependent state and federal civic engagement goals are best accomplished through intentional consultation and collaboration between state service commissions and our federal partner, CNCS.
  • To further allow state commissions to flourish and generate innovative, practical solutions to local issues, it is critical that CNCS continue reducing administrative burden, unnecessary reporting, redundant system requirements, and other highly bureaucratized practices that do little to ensure compliance or accountability.
“The community service movement…empowers citizens to become problem solvers, provides them with the resources to serve, and establishes the mechanisms for them to identify and respond to problems in their communities before they become catastrophes. Community Service recognizes both the limits of government solutions and the value of government resources. For the movement to succeed it must remain true to its grassroots by supporting local needs and elevating local models.

The Challenge of Community Building by Frank Dirks, Former Executive Director of Michigan Community Service Commissions and first Executive Director of ASC