Points of Light’s Michelle Nunn: MLK Day, Haiti Relief Efforts, and Getting Hands On in Your Community

Today’s guest on The New Service podcast is Michelle Nunn, CEO of the Points of Light Institute and Co-Founder of the HandsOn Network.

Points of Light Institute inspires, equips and mobilizes people to take action that changes the world. In 2007, the Points of Light Institute grew out of the merger between the Points of Light Foundation and the Hands On Network, creating the largest volunteer management and civic engagement organization in the nation. HandsOn Network includes more than 250 HandsOn Action Centers around the United States and ten other countries.

Idealist’s Amy Potthast chats with Michelle Nunn the Friday before MLK Day about the first-ever national MLK Day Virtual Town Hall Meeting, how people throughout the United States can take action in their own communities through Hands On Action Centers, how people can respond to the Haiti earthquake of January 12th, and the upcoming National Conference on Volunteering and Service to take place in New York this summer.

Direct download: Points_of_Lights_Michelle_Nunn.mp3

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NCVS Opening Plenary Monday Night

Michelle Obama speaking at NCVS 09

Michelle Obama speaking at NCVS 09

The launch of the National Conference on Volunteering and Service Monday night brought a huge crowd of people out to hear First Lady Michelle Obama speak, among other familiar faces.

When I arrived, the throngs of people waiting in line to go through security matched the throngs of people already inside the hall, and everyone was waiting for Michelle Obama. Helping the time fly was comic/emcee Wally Collins who made fun of individual audience members between introducing musical acts like Sondre Lerche and the Glide Ensemble. Also in the lead-in to the main event, Shawn Rubin accepted the Eli Segal Award from AmeriCorps Alums, Alan Khazei of Be the Change, Inc., spoke introducing corporate sponsor Shannon Schuyler of PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

The highlight of the night didn’t come at the end, as I would have expected. Michelle Obama took the stage somewhere in the middle of the opening event, and everyone in the crowd cheered and stood if they could. Her words were inspiring of course, but I was more stunned by the simple fact of her presence—the President’s wife chose to spend time with us. She used to run a Public Allies AmeriCorps program—and said to start that she was with her people. What I liked the best about what she said was the reaction she and President Obama received when they each decided to forego lucrative careers for nonprofit jobs—Mrs. Obama at Public Allies and Pres. Obama at various nonprofits like the Developing Communities Project where he was a community organizer. She said, regarding people in our lives who dismiss our career choices: “But what these folks don’t understand is that the story of progress in this nation has always been the story of people who chose — in times of trial and struggle — to serve it.”

Mrs. Obama also announced the launch of the United We Serve summer of service initiative, which will last through Sept. 11th of this year, which will make community service easy to do for anyone, and focus on health care, energy Continue reading

NonProfit Times honors Service Nation Leaders

Nonprofit periodical spotlights national service by honoring leaders of the Service Nation movement.

Today The NonProfit Times announced the 2008 NonProfit Times Executives of the Year:

For their dedication toward promoting a national service agenda, John Bridgeland, president and CEO of Civic Enterprises, Michael Brown, co-founder and CEO of City Year, Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Alan Khazei, founder and CEO of Be the Change, Michelle Nunn, president and CEO of the Points of Light Institute, and Richard Stengel, managing editor of Time magazine, have been selected the 2008 NonProfit Times Executives of the Year.

John Bridgeland speaks at the Service Nation Summit

John Bridgeland speaks at the Service Nation Summit

Service Nation Town Hall Meeting

Follow tweets by RocchiJulia.

Moderated by David Gergen, Senior Political Analyst at CNN and advisor to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton. In his opening remarks, Gergen says this is the most hopeful movement he’s seen since the civil rights movement.

Participants include Lt Gen Ben Freakley, Vanessa Kirsch (New Profit, Inc.), Mallory Josol (City Year and Jumpstart alum), Michelle Nunn (Hands On Network), Usher (er, well, of Usher!).

Kirsch was part of the founding of Public Allies. Says Eli Segal would be proud of the bipartisan support of national service we have been witnessing during the Summit. Emphasis on public-private partnership. We can actually solve problems with the human capital invested through national service! Teach For America used to be a small idea, and now tens of thousands of top college graduates are applying. Need to scale up national service to meet the desire to serve.

Gergen: how do you mobilize this many people to sign up? (Kennedy and Hatch’s Serve America Act would authorize the funding of 250,000 national service slots.)

Michelle Nunn says Kennedy-Hatch bill includes many different types of service: national service, community volunteering, international service. Coalition includes all sectors, faith-based groups, and more to work together to “make the bill a reality.”

Usher: Youth have always been on the fore-front of change. Youth leaders need a sense of ownership. Incentives may include scholarships. (Soft spoken but then says he’s nervous! Audience cheers him on.) Youth are engaged by leaders who lead example. Not “this is what you should do” but “this is what we will do together.”

Mallory Josol: (She is so young, and so, so well-spoken!) It’s important to have leaders call on youth to serve, but it’s more important to live the example. Youth will answer the call to service if they know about the opportunities. Need is all over the country, youth are all over the country. Josol says she is from a zip code “of need.” You don’t have to be wealthy to serve.

Lt. Gen. Freakley: Programs, civilian or military, offer youth opportunities to serve and to realize their potential. Not organized on the internet! Have to get into social networking! Bring military retirees into the process: they can plan, they can execute, they can train!

Gergen: Where does government fit in?

Kirsch: Middle way. Not about big government or just the private sector. Government, philanthropists both partners. Citizens elevate programs, government invests. AmeriCorps is a network of organizations, succeeding with capital invested from the government. Not “big government.” Most organizations that receive AmeriCorps funding are otherwise private-sector funded for the most part.

Freakley: Move youth from entitlement to empowerment. We adults have given them a sense of entitlement. When they feel empowered, they will serve.

Participant: It’s a religious experience being here. Largest coalition of bipartisan support for service. Serve America Act is an appropriations bill. May compete with labor bill. Can we build an even broader coalition so that we don’t do harm but instead to good?

Participant: The U.S. Public Service Academy be successful? Will it compete with military service academies?

Freakley: Need Public Service Academy to train people to serve in public sector and alumni who can speak out for service.

Harris Wofford steps up to the microphone on the ballroom floor: The reason Kennedy and Shriver were confident that Peace Corps could grow to 100,000 is because the original CCC employed 500,000. AmeriCorps is primarily a nonprofit sector endeavor. Seed funding from government.