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The National Commission on Service Explores Mandatory Service Policy Options, Holds First Hearing on Topic

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DGI Director Bob Grimm Offers Testimony in Support of More Service Opportunities for All Americans

*Full written testimony can be found online here.

 The National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service held its first hearing, Universal Service: Inspiring Universal Service Across America, to explore a diversity of policy options that support universal participation in service, such as faith-based, community-led, privately-managed, or state-driven models. Dr. Robert Grimm, Director of the Do Good Institute, was invited to testify to provide insights about his and co-author Nathan Dietz’s recent research into America’s declining rate of volunteering and community engagement. During the hearing, the Commission expressed keen interest in how the University of Maryland’s Do Good Campus model and impact could be replicated at other institutions as a way to reverse these negative national trends and motivate students across the country to participate in high-quality, regular service experiences that would spark innovations across the country.

The Commission is an 11-member bipartisan commission created by Congress and tasked, for the first time in American history, with comprehensively and holistically reviewing the Selective Service System, along with military, national, and public service. The Commission hopes to ignite a national conversation about ideas of service as it develops recommendations for the Congress, the President, and the American public by March 2020.

During the hearing, Robert Grimm said, “Americans don’t need to be convinced that service is valuable – they’re already hungry for it. What they need are more opportunities and educational experiences that offer youth the opportunity to make an impact today and spark a lifetime of high-quality, transformative engagement...As a nation, we must commit resources and time to the challenging work of putting more Americans back to work improving and engaging with their communities.” Dr. Grimm cited examples of UMD student-generated, service-oriented social innovations, such as the Food Recovery Network and Imperfect Produce, that are creating jobs and improving the quality of life for communities across the United States.

Americans don’t need to be convinced that service is valuable – they’re already hungry for it. What they need are more opportunities and educational experiences that offer youth the opportunity to make an impact today.
Robert T. Grimm, Jr Director of the Do Good Institute

Volunteering has long been recognized as an influential activity for creating productive and engaged citizens and has been seen to help strengthen communities and help volunteers themselves. Given the importance of volunteering, giving, voting, and civic engagement, Drs. Grimm and Dietz’s research briefs Where Are America’s Volunteers? and Good Intentions, Gap in Action have been distributed widely and cited by publications such as The Washington Post and Fast Company.

“The Do Good Institute seeks to create an ethos of service among all UMD students. When addressing, how we, as a country, can inspire universal service across America, we knew Dr. Grimm could speak to this. He knows service learning is not a passive activity, but instead requires active participation and deep, practical application,” said Commission Chairman Joe Heck. “The Do Good Institute is a model worth reviewing to see if it can be replicated elsewhere.”

The Commission heard prepared testimony and held a Q&A forum with Dr. Robert Grimm, Do Good Institute, Tom Chabolla, President, Jesuit Volunteer Corps, Jeff West, Corporate Responsibility Leader, IBM Corporation, and Teresa Walch, National Vice President, Training and Quality Improvement, Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

The Commission will hold 14 hearings before June 2019, with each hearing providing the Commission an opportunity to receive testimony on key topics within its mandate. Members of the public will also have an opportunity to provide comments at each hearing following the conclusion of testimony. The Commission invites the public to share comments on its website and join the digital conversation on service on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  

To view the Commission’s initial findings, click here. To watch the hearing, covered by C-SPAN, click here. And, to read Robert Grimm’s written testimony, which outlines the national decline in the number of Americans who are volunteering annually, how the University of Maryland’s Do Good Campus is transforming student’s ideas into impact, and outlines policy ideas that could inspire a movement toward universal voluntary service, click here.


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