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Five State Service Commissions Receive Innovation Awards from America’s Service Commissions

Awardees Honored from California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Texas

WASHINGTON, DC — Five state service commissions from across the nation were recognized this week at the 2023 Commission Innovation Awards, hosted by America’s Service Commissions (ASC). The awards program was held as part of festivities in honor of ASC’s 25th anniversary.

Innovation in Grantmaking

One of the core functions of a commission is awarding AmeriCorps and volunteerism grants. The Innovation in Grantmaking award honors a commission that been innovative in transforming its grantmaking process to be more accessible, equitable, and inclusive. Three commissions were recognized as finalists, including Massachusetts Service Alliance, OneStar, and UServeUtah. 

OneStar, the state service commission in Texas, was selected as the winner of this award because it has made a series of strategic changes to its grantmaking practices to grow its portfolio of programs, while also assisting existing programs in exploring new programmatic concepts and/or expanding to new regions of the state. During the past few years, OneStar provided planning grants to 11 new organizations in the state, funded planning grants for 15 existing programs to explore new service-to-workforce pathways, and funded 16 new operating grants. In addition, OneStar has revised and simplified its grantmaking process to make grant funds more accessible to organizations, particularly those new to national service.

Innovation in Policy Making

Often the work of a commission can be amplified by partnerships with legislative bodies and state administrations. The Innovation in Policy Making award recognizes a commission that has been working with policy makers locally, statewide, and/or nationally to enhance the effectiveness of its work. Three commissions were recognized as finalists, including California Volunteers, ServeMinnesota, and Serve Wisconsin.

California Volunteers was selected as the winner of this award because it has partnered closely with its governor’s office as well as state legislature to fund a major expansion of diverse service opportunities in California. Initial state funding increased the living allowance for AmeriCorps members serving in the state as well as the value of the education award. Subsequent initiatives have developed new state-funded corps programming in the areas of college access, climate, and youth career development in addition to providing opportunities for DACA recipients to serve. As a result, nearly 13,000 service opportunities are available per year in the state, and during the 2022-2023 program year more than 75 percent of members serving were individuals of color representing California’s racial diversity.

Innovation in AmeriCorps Programming

AmeriCorps program design and implementation plays a large role in the work of every commission. The Innovation in AmeriCorps Programming award honors a commission working with community partners to create innovative programming to meet the needs of its state or territory today and in the future. Three commissions were recognized as finalists, including Michigan Community Service Commission, ServeMinnesota, and ServeOhio.

ServeMinnesota was selected as the winner of this award because it has a tenured history of developing innovative AmeriCorps programming that has been replicated both statewide and nationally. ServeMinnesota is committed to developing evidence-based approaches with rigorous evaluation efforts to continue to improve program effectiveness and the quality of the AmeriCorps member experience. Programmatic areas include reading and math tutoring, refugee response programming, and efforts to address affordable housing and community referrals in Minnesota. Many of these programmatic areas have been developed and funded in partnership with the state legislature and other state agencies, including the Department of Human Services.

Innovation in Civic Engagement and Volunteerism

Volunteerism and civic engagement are a vital part of the commission role and remain a significant pathway to bridge building in our country. The Innovation in Civic Engagement and Volunteerism award recognizes a commission that has been innovative in supporting civic engagement and volunteers in its state. Three commissions were recognized as finalists, including Kansas Volunteer Commission, Massachusetts Service Alliance, and Michigan Community Service Commission. 

Massachusetts Service Alliance (MSA) was selected as the winner of this award because it has developed a series of initiatives that support volunteer engagement efforts throughout the state. These efforts include a menu of training and capacity building experiences for practitioners such as service enterprise training and certification as well as funding opportunities to assist nonprofit organizations in redeveloping volunteer infrastructure lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, the commission has partnered with its state department of education to re-establish youth service and service-learning programming in Massachusetts. As a result of these efforts, MSA has been able to increase the number of individuals volunteering each year and greatly diversify those that are volunteering in their communities.

Innovation in Partnerships

The work of a commission can make huge impacts on its state or territory and help solve wide scale problems; however, many commissions’ work is limited by using only AmeriCorps funds and few other resources. The Innovation in Partnerships award honors a commission that has created innovative partnerships to better expand service in its communities. Three commissions were recognized as finalists, including California Volunteers, Serve Colorado, and Serve Washington. 

Serve Colorado was selected as the winner of this award because it has centered its growth strategy on building partnerships with state agencies, community-based organizations, and philanthropic organizations to support growth in the number of programs and members serving in Colorado. As a result, the commission has doubled the size of its AmeriCorps portfolio and secured nearly $25 million in state and philanthropic funding to fuel its efforts. Many of these partnerships have focused on securing other federal and state funds to develop service-to-workforce pathways in high demand growth areas in Colorado, including public health, education, and climate resiliency. In addition, these efforts have assisted Serve Colorado and its programs in increasing AmeriCorps member living allowances and providing other supports to members during their terms of service.

“All 52 state and territorial service commissions across the country are doing innovative work to expand and improve national service and take volunteerism into the future,” said Kaira Esgate, ASC CEO. “We are thrilled to honor just a few of these commissions and the amazing work they’re doing as part of our 25th anniversary celebrations. We at ASC are grateful to have been collaborating with and representing commissions as their membership organization for the past 25 years, and we look forward to continuing to advance national service together for the next 25 and beyond.”

Congratulations to all the awardees!


About America's Service Commissions
America's Service Commissions is a nonprofit, nonpartisan association representing and promoting the 52 state service commissions across the United States and territories with the mission to lead and elevate the state service network. State service commissions are governor-appointed public agencies or nonprofit organizations made up of more than 1,000 commissioners, private citizens leading the nation's service movement and administering more than 75 percent of the federal AmeriCorps funds to address pressing community needs.