Show Your Corps Member Love this Holiday Season

Rejecting the traditional gift list, I wanted to highlight some things you can give or do over the holidays for the corps member in your life — whether they serve in your office, are in your family, or a good friend. Check out the Give List for more ideas.

1. Ask them/listen to what they say. This year it’s okay not to surprise the corps member in your life. They may actually need help with a chore or an expense and would appreciate that more than any surprise you can dream up.

2. Cash. Economists say it’s the best gift anyway, at least in terms of efficiency. Your corps member can spend it as they see fit. If it feels un-gift-like, offer it in a decorative envelope with a heart-warming letter inside telling them how much they or their service means to you. If your corps member is an international volunteer, deposit the check in their State-side bank account rather than send through the mail.

3. Food/gift cards for food. While a $25 gift card to the local boutique grocer may sound appealing to you, the gift goes further at a store like Trader Joe’s which has low prices. If your corps member is an international volunteer, find out what essential, shippable items they can’t get in their host country and send a well-sealed care package. You’d be surprised how valuable a box of corn flakes or mac & cheese is to them.

4. Subscriptions. The gifts that keep on giving. You can find subscription services for a wide range of things — like magazines, obviously; wine from a local vineyard; and even fair-trade coffee.

5. Socially responsible gifts, donations, or loans in their name. This year your corps member may be especially sensitive to the local impact and cost of goods and services, and to extravagance and waste.

If you want to offer them a material gift, consider buying something that positively impacts the community or region. For example, Echoing Green funds social enterprises and offers this gift guide.

You can also donate to a nonprofit project that means something to them, either their own project (check out this site, for donating to Peace Corps Volunteer projects); nonprofits set up for gift-giving like Heifer International; their local public radio station; or any organization with a mission your corps member believes in. Other nonprofits like HealthCorps offer branded gifts through CafePress.

Another option is lending for a good cause, in their name. For example, allows people to lend money online, in amounts as small as $25, to micro-enterprises around the world — you browse and choose the business you’d like to help start up. When you lend, you aren’t even giving — you’ll be repaid, and can pocket the money or lend again.

6. A party or potluck in their honor. If your corps member is home for the holidays, consider hosting a welcome-back gathering for them and their friends.

7. A visit from you. If your corps member is far from home, consider visiting them. If you can’t visit them over the holidays, announce your plan to visit another time as part of their gift.

8. Tickets to a special experience. The ballet, an athletic event, a concert. Not only will the experience be something they may not afford on their own, it’s also not something material they have to worry about transporting when they move on after their term ends.

9. Meaningful tech tools. A digital and/or video camera to record their year, a video camera add-on for their computer so you can stay in touch through Skype, a MacBook that has it all.

10. Something homemade. Anything from a scarf to a personalized cookbook to a scrapbook of their accomplishments. If you go this route, make the decision based on your own talents as well as their tastes. As with socially responsible gifts, homemade gifts aren’t necessarily cheaper, and they are more time-intensive. But they are keepsakes forever, and will always remind your corps member of this holiday season, when they served in a corps.
add to :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank :: post to facebook How Would You Change the U.S.?

The social networking site (not to be confused with Obama’s transition site asks you to submit and vote for the best ideas to change the United States.

Here are some of the top national and public service ideas afloat.

uspsalogoVote for the U.S. Public Service Academy, a four-year, federally subsidized, civilian counterpart to Westpoint and the other military academies. Students would attend cost-free in exchange for a commitment to a few years of public service post-graduation. Spearheaded by Echoing Green Fellow Chris Myers Asch, and backed already by many government leaders. (Listen to the podcast on the idea.)

Vote for a national service program to improve local infratructure. “A large yet light and fast corps of workers – not unlike President-elect Obama’s campaign infrastructure – mobilized to solve such regional blights could have a huge impact on our economy, our environment, our education, and our civic engagement and empowerment, all from the ground up.” Submitted by librarian and media ecologist Terence Fitzgerald.

Abigail Falik

Abigail Falik, Founder of Global Citizen Year

Vote for Global Citizen Year, “The world urgently needs globally engaged American leadership.  Poverty, disease and climate change affect us all, threatening global security, prosperity and survival.  Yet Americans remain dangerously uninformed and unengaged in global issues….By recruiting and training a diverse corps of emerging leaders, and supporting them as apprentices with development organizations across Asia, Africa and Latin America, we’ll ensure that many more students have the global fluencies and civic savvy they need to approach their lives with passion, perspective and purpose. ” Global Citizen Year is already incorporated as an organization, headed by Abigail Falik, with plans to launch its first corps during the fall of 2009.

Atlas Corps logoVote for a two-way international service corps. “For 47 years Americans have had the opportunity to volunteer abroad with the Peace Corps and other programs, however it is almost impossible for someone overseas to volunteer in the U.S. The U.S. Government should support a global, two-way, service corps, such as Atlas Corps, where nonprofit leaders from abroad can volunteer in the U.S. and U.S. nonprofit leaders can volunteer abroad.” Submitted by Scott Beale, the founder of Atlas Corps.

Vote for incorporating social entrepreneurship into the national service plan. “While many students will be thrilled with the loan-repayment and service opportunities provided, and will rush at the ability to as teachers in under-privelleged schools or as Peace Corps volunteers abroad, the social entrepreneurs among the undergraduate crowd need support for their style of making change as well. This group are the synthesizers that see gaps in current nonprofit service provision and create new, innovative approaches to change. Unfortunately, there is almost no regularized funding available for student social entrepreneurs to translate their student work into full time careers and full-scale nonprofits. Social venture funding is needed.” Submitted by Nathaniel Whittemore, a Chicago-based social entrepreneur.

Vote to Expand AmeriCorps. “The benefits of giving Americans a chance to serve their country radically outweigh the costs.  In addition, service is a wonderful way to give young people the resources they need to go to college.  President Obama should keep his promise to expand AmeriCorps to 250,000 members a year by immediately pushing to increase its funding, instituting a “health corps” and a “green corps,” and giving a major speech in which he personally solicits young people to make a commitment to filling these slots.  More than ever, Americans desire the opportunity to serve their country; President Obama must make that a priority immediately.” Submitted by UPenn law student, activist, and AmeriCorps Alum Adam Schwartzbaum.

The top ten ideas overall, submitted in a wide range of categories, will be presented to President-Elect Obama on inauguration day (January 20).

Voting will take place in two rounds — round one ends on December 31. The top ideas from each category will make it to round two. Read more about the Ideas for Change in America.

New Echoing Green Podcast – Application Tips

Echoing Green logoEchoing Green’s latest podcast episode highlights tips for applying for one of its prestigious social-enterprise fellowships.

For people who have innovative ideas for solving the world’s most intractable social ills, Echoing Green offers two years of start-up funding, support, and networking. Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach For America, received seed funds from Echoing Green. Chris Myers Asch, founder and leader of the U.S. Public Service Academy movement, is a current Fellow. Read about other 2008 Fellows.

From Echoing Green’s web site:

Applicants should be sure to check out this week’s episode of the Be Bold podcast.  In this episode, Echoing Green’s Lara Galinsky answers questions about the Echoing Green Fellowship including:

  • What is the Echoing Green Fellowship?
  • What are the application requirements?
  • What are common mistakes in the application process?
  • What additional resources does Echoing Green provide to applicants?

Applications to the fellowship are due December 1, 2008 at 5pm EST. The initial application is online. Read more about the application process.

Listen to the Idealist podcast on Echoing Green featuring Lara Galinsky.

Call for stories. Also, Echoing Green has issued a call for submissions to its next verstion of the book Be Bold.

Pres. Obama and Government Careers

images-4With record numbers of first-time voters and young people backing Obama’s presidency, perhaps a new generation of government workers will not be so hard to recruit after all.

With Baby Boomers retiring in droves over the next decade, fears have been widespread in public and nonprofit sectors that the United States will face a leadership shortage.

Not enough young people have shown an interest in government careers, and in-roads to government careers are not well known. Government has a reputation of being inefficient, less lucrative than business sector work, and very, very bureaucratic. People cite student loans that are just too high, and the need for better marketing of the compelling opportunities available in the government.

“This will not be a call issued in one speech or one program – this will be a central cause of my presidency. We will ask Americans to serve. We will create new opportunities for Americans to serve. And we will direct that service to our most pressing national challenges.”– U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama during a speech given at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs July 2, 2008.

John F. Kennedy inspired a generation of youth to serve through initiatives like Peace Corps. Will a new generation of people — young people and people who are recently discovering civic engagement — be inspired to join the ranks of an Obama-led federal government? What do you think?

If you are considering a career in government — whether you supported McCain or Obama during this election cycle — you should know about these resources:

President-Elect Obama has been particularly clear that his administration will count on the help of people who have supported his candidacy and on those who didn’t. Young people may accept this invitation by entering the government workforce. If they do so with the enthusiasm and turn-out they have shown in his election bid, the looming leadership crisis may fail to materialize.

Service Nation Approved Bloggers List

(Update 9/20/08, see this post from Henri Makembe’s blog for more bloggers.)

My first official media team volunteer duty at the Service Nation Summit (okay, after schlepping some boxes and touring the primary event spaces for tonight and tomorrow) is checking in the Be the Change, Inc. approved bloggers for the Forum tonight.

I may blog some as I am able, but in case you want to follow events, I will update the list of bloggers as they check in. Note: not 100% of bloggers checked in with me — others may be blogging not on this list. Doesn’t mean they are unauthorized.

Kate from Be the Change, Inc. is here: Change/ Wire. Follow BetheChangeInc on Twitter, and follow Kate, rightplace.

Britt Bravo is here: and Have Fun – Do Good. You can follow Britt on Twitter. You can also follow Britt-inspired Changeblogs on Twitter.

Alison Fine arrived: and afine on Twitter.

Liza Sabater checked in: Awearness, and blogdiva on Twitter.

Christina Kerley got in: She blogs at CK’s Blog and Spare Change. ckEpiphany on Twitter.

Roger Carr just walked in! Everyday Giving, and rogercarr on Twitter.

Columbia Graduate School of Journalism students are blogging at Obama and McCain at Columbia. Follow them on Twitter: J_School.

Lara Galinsky just arrived! Spark*Blog on Echoing Green. Friday Echoing Green will be updating on Twitter.

Alan Wolk! Blogging at Toadstool, and Tweeting at awolk.

The FLiP team arrived: Divine Tabios, Elisabeth Anderson, and Daniel Blaine. They are not tweeting!

RocchiJulia is tweeting! She will blog at Social Citizens.

Ray Skwire is here. Will blog tomorrow about tonight at PhillyBits.

And Friday morning I am seeing (in addition to those above):

Daniel Parr from Conservation Nation! Not tweeting.

I am again tweeting from AmyPotthast!