Last week, I attended the Southwest Cluster Conference in Dallas, TX. About 150 representatives from AmeriCorps State and National programs, state service commissions and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) participated in the conference.
The conference kicked off on March 2 with an opening plenary on the current landscape of national service. During the session, CNCS staff gave updates on Serve America Act implementation and the FY11 budget. That afternoon, I participated in the Advanced AmeriCorps Think Tank, a three-hour facilitated discussion among individuals who have worked in national service for at least seven years. We broke up into four small groups to address the key issues, challenges and potential strategies related to the following big-picture questions.
· How do we build our (the country) capacity to advance the next decade of service?
· How do we position ourselves to take national service to scale?
· How do we establish/create a community of excellence and innovation in programming?
· How do we improve AmeriCorps name recognition and branding?
To view notes from the Think Tank, please click here. We have also posted the above questions to the ASC online forum in the hopes of continuing the dialogue and strategic thinking that began in Dallas. Please visit the ASC online forum at http://www.statecommissions.org, log in to the site, and click forum.
The conference’s second day featured a series of workshops and round-robin sessions. Furthermore, staff from state service commissions, AmeriCorps National programs and CNCS met to share an overview of their organizations, answer questions and discuss how to further strengthen their partnerships and communication.
On the conference’s last day, March 4, I hosted a peer-networking session for 20 state service commission staff from Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. During the session, commission staff shared best practices, engaged in program and fiscal management-related discussions and provided feedback on the Advanced AmeriCorps Think Tank notes. The feedback is included at the end of the Think Tank notes.
Overall, the Southwest Cluster Conference was a huge success and provided a great opportunity for the national service community in that region to connect with, and learn from, their peers. Special thanks to the OneStar Foundation and to the following conference planning committee members for their time and hard work.
- Wendy Elliot, Youth Volunteer Corps of America
- Aki Frankenberger, OneStar Foundation
- Kathy Hernandez, OneStar Foundation
- Rosa Moreno-Mahoney, OneStar Foundation
- Melinda Points, Oklahoma Community Service Commission
- Mark Skinner, Colorado Governor’s Commission on Community Service
- Anna Thiele, OneStar Foundation
Training & Technical Assistance Manager
America’s Service Commissions