Tuesday, May 05, 2009

In This Together - Washington

Every so often, one has a big idea. And it is in precisely those moments that I'm thankful to have a defunct blog where I can put the idea "out there" for ever-so-gradual input and building/abandoning (as appropriate).

The Basic Idea

In short, promoting public service. What I envision is a state-led campaign encouraging people to give half an hour in community service for every hour of tv they watch. It sets a high aspiration point. The campaign reminds people of the value of community service to self and to others, including testimonials and examples of the achievements that are possible when we come together for the common good.

The Practical Side

Beyond the call to service, we incentivize it. We set a tangible number, say an average of 30 hours per month. Anyone meeting that goal receives some sort of card or certificate acknowledging him or her as a "Daughter of Washington" or "Son of Washington" or "Exemplar of Washington."

But this certificate isn't just a piece of paper! No, this is where it gets good. We enlist businesses to offer meaningful rewards, say 25% off, to persons presenting the certificate. We're ALL in this together, persons and corporations alike. In exchange for participation, businesses receive (in addition to the recognition of participation is the program) some sort of tax break or other benefit from the state.

A Little Nitty Gritty

So where do these community service hours come from? Obviously there are numerous opportunities with private organizations, charities, church groups (engaged in non-evangelical activities), etc. that the state should accept as counting toward the hours. Additionally, the state could organize opportunities, such as regular park cleanings, knitting events where people make clothing for indigent families, opportunities for professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc.) to work on behalf of the indigent, and so on. Many of these programs already exist. But what doesn't exist is a central location for disseminating that information. A website, for example, where the teenager can log on, find a community service project going on that say, and drop by and grab a shovel. It's a rather fundamental precept that when something is made convenient, more people will take advantage of it. So why on Earth wouldn't we make public service more convenient?

Nor do I imagine this requiring any sort of bloated bureaucracy. Clearly, staff would be needed to run the website, compile information from private service organizations, oversee the state-led projects, and control the distribution of certificates. But the value provided by thousands of volunteer hours more than pays for this modest sum.

So What Do You Think

If such a program existed (in your state - it's clearly transplantable), would you participate? What parts make sense? What parts make no sense? How might you improve on this proposed program? I'm confident there are many ways to make the idea stronger - I literally cooked it up on a bus ride home from the gym. So please, share your thoughts!

1 comment:

Kellin Smith said...

Hey! :)

We just launched Olympia bookoo - it's a massive online yard sale for Olympia and surrounding areas.- Thousands of people buying and selling used stuff from each other, in a fun, family-friendly way! :)

We're getting the word out to some local bloggers, and would like to send you a free bookoo t-shirt (no strings attached!). If you would like a free t-shirt, will you send me an email at kellin@bookoo.com with your address and shirt size? I'll get it out to you right away!

Check out the website: