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The American Way to Change:
How National Service and Volunteers are Transforming America

By Shirley Sagawa


Our nation faces crises in nearly every important aspect of American life – struggling students, poor health, climate change, and limited economic opportunity to name a few. Many people look to government to solve these problems. But while government has an important role, none of these problems can be solved by government alone. In fact, none can be solved without the committed efforts of the American people, taking action on their own or in concert with others.

Service is the American way to change America. Volunteering is on the rise, and there is every reason to believe that more people would serve if only they were asked. The human capital we need to deploy against our biggest challenges is poised and ready.

Unfortunately, service – by volunteers and national service participants -- is often left out of the public problem solving tool box. It is time to get serious about solving the problems that are holding us back as a nation by making it possible for ordinary citizens to play a part. We now have the know-how and evidence to support large scale efforts to use service to address our national priorities.

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After decades of incremental progress, the US is at a critical juncture in the history of national service. Across America, national service programs are changing lives, tackling tough problems, creating innovative solutions, and engaging citizens in their communities. With the recently enacted Kennedy Serve America Act, the national service movement is suddenly positioned to achieve significantly greater impact—if we can leverage its true potential and manage this important labor force of volunteers effectively. This book spells out how.

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