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Social Capitalists: City Year

43 entrepreneurs who are changing the world
2007 Social Capitalist Winner

City Year

Boston, MA
Year founded: 1988
President: Michael Brown

City Year is dedicated to building democracy through citizen service, civic engagement and social entrepreneurship. City Year’s signature program, the City Year youth corps, unites young adults, ages 17 to 24, in a demanding year of full-time service during which they work in diverse teams to address societal needs, particularly in schools and neighborhoods. These young leaders put their idealism to work as tutors and mentors to school children, reclaiming public spaces, and organizing after-school programs, school vacation camps, and civic engagement programs for students of all ages. More than 1,100 corps members serve in 16 City Year sites across the United States and one site in Johannesburg, South Africa.

City Year’s model of building stronger communities through service was most recently demonstrated by the launch of City Year’s newest site in Louisiana. Prior to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, City Year was in early stages of a three-year start-up process for the launch of a site in Louisiana. After the hurricanes, the process was expedited to have a team in place within 60 days. In its first program year, corps members served in five schools in the East Baton Rouge Paris school district, where approximately one-third of the students were displaced. In 2006, City Year Louisiana corps members began service in New Orleans, continuing its commitment to the people and communities of Louisiana and embodying its motto, “Here to Serve, Here to Stay.”

As an “action tank” for national service, City Year seeks to combine theory and practice in order to illustrate, promote, and expand the power of service to build a stronger democracy. In addition to the youth corps, City Year is committed to engaging business, civic and government leaders in its vision that someday the most commonly asked question of a young adult will be, “Where are you going to do your service year?” City Year helped to lead the Save AmeriCorps Coalition (a nationwide grassroots campaign to respond to federal budget cuts) and is involved in its successor organization, Voices for National Service.

Over the past 18 years, City Year has generated 14 million hours of service to community and country, served 985,000 children, and engaged nearly 950,000 other citizens in service. Much of City Year’s impact, however, come from countless individual acts—a young idealist who is teaching a child to read, painting a school, engaging a corporate partner, testifying before a legislature—that has helped secure, stabilize, enrich and strengthen the civic fabric of society.

City Year corps members are leaders for the common good—not only during their “City Year” but also after graduation. A recent survey of City Year alumni indicated that City Year’s impact extends well beyond the year of service and they vote and volunteer in far greater numbers than their peers.

Partnerships have always been a hallmark of City Year. The organization’s citizen service initiatives are rooted in innovative relationships with schools, corporations, community organizations, civic leaders, elected officials and others. City Year’s premier corporate sponsors, called National Leadership Sponsors, are Bank of America, Comcast, CSX, Pepperidge Farm, The Timberland Company and T-Mobile.

City Year’s vision for citizen service extends well beyond its borders and is based on establishing action tank programs in other countries and leveraging those programs to inspire and build capacity for expanded national youth service movements and systems, to show the power of idealism and service to build stronger democracies.

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