Kudos to the Administration for passing a Stimulus bill that, both in voice and in funds, supports volunteerism and community activism. While I’m still not sold or sure of the government’s increasing presence in the sector (i.e. Office of Social Innovation), its not being overdone…yet.
The combination between improvements in public diplomacy and philanthropy by the government will go a long way in cleaning up the U.S.’s image. I was nearly giddy to see the State Department’s new blog and twitter feed (@dipnote). It won’t be the end all, but it opens communication – and transparency.
With people excited about the U.S.’s role in the world once again and with folks fired up to volunteer, its no wonder that PeaceCorps and Teach for America’s application numbers are increasing. I would think that the U.S. Foreign Service is experiencing the same increase – or will be shortly.
With the increase in funding via the Stimulus plan for these service-based opportunities, it will be interesting to see how organizational capacity will function. Will an increase in funding and an increase in applications result in more candidates hired to serve – or will candidates simply need to be more qualified? How is “qualified” defined? The Chronicle of Philanthropy asked this same question about the future of AmeriCorps – the comments posted debate the quality v. quantity of candidates, the effectiveness of individual programs, and how to improve AmeriCorps on whole.
The country has just received the message, “go and out get involved”. While an increase in funding is available and the government support is encouraging, change will not happen overnight. Application rates may rise, but organizational capacity to handle the influx may not increase. The number of applicants will rise, but the diversity of applicants and skill sets may not. Excitement to serve is heightened, but increased capacity and stronger support are not necessarily included.
I love seeing public diplomacy and philanthropy getting their time in the sun. If taken slowly and applied correctly the increase in funding and popularity will be a huge success – both for U.S. image and for citizen pride. We can’t take this recent surge in transparency and interest as a quick fix – its for the long term, and folks need to be ready to commit to that.