AmeriCorps Research & Evaluation holds grant competitions to:

  • foster scholarly research on civic health
  • address knowledge gaps in civic engagement and volunteerism
  • identify new ideas and methodological approaches to service

AmeriCorps provides funding through both research and planning grants.

What is a Research Grant

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Scroll below to explore the research grantee profiles and learn more about AmeriCorps funded research and planning efforts in the national service space.

Research Grants

2023 Cohort, National Service and Civic Engagement Research Competition

In 2023, AmeriCorps provided 1) five supplemental awards to academic institutions to research seniors in the United States and in national service programs (AmeriCorps Seniors and AmeriCorps State and National) and 2) one award to research AmeriCorps’s climate change projects.

American University

Title: Developing Research Strategies to Assess the Expanding Work on Climate Adaptation, Resilience, and Mitigation at AmeriCorps

Principal Investigators:  Dana Fisher, PhD

Background: Since President Biden signed an executive order to tackle the climate crisis at home and abroad, federal agencies have worked to integrate climate adaptation, resilience, and mitigation into their work.  This project will develop research strategies to assess, evaluate, and monitor the expanding work on climate adaptation, resilience, and mitigation at AmeriCorps.  Once these strategies have been developed the project will then begin to conduct research following those strategies and insights.

Drexel University

Title: Drexel University Seniors Supplemental Study

Principal Investigators:  Ayana Allen-Handy, PhD, Drexel University; and Rachel Wenrick, Drexel University

Background: This research aims to lay the groundwork to advance the field's knowledge of how a place-based multi-modal collaborative arts program affects civic action and creates the relationships that bind those of diverse backgrounds, ages, religions, races, and genders together. With an already established intergenerational collective of youth, young and older adults on our team, additional funding from AmeriCorps Seniors will enable us to build on this existing work by creating a bridge cohort of 11 senior co-researchers/artists from WR and from Joy who will engage in collaborative projects centered on affordable housing, skill and workforce development, restorative justice/community healing, preserving cultural histories, and the prospective impacts on older adults lifelong learning, volunteerism and civic action. We will execute a community-driven participatory action research (CPAR) project with our cohort of seniors engaging in multi-modal data collection and analysis with other seniors both locally and nationally regarding issues that our seniors deem most important. Our team will serve as a case study and will support both local and national ACS volunteer stations.

University of Georgia

Title: University of Georgia Seniors Supplemental Study

Principal Investigators:  Rebecca Nesbit, PhD, University of Georgia; and Laurie E. Paarlberg, PhD, Indiana University, Lily School of Philanthropy

Background: This project explores the influence of civic infrastructure on the volunteering behavior of seniors. The civic infrastructure includes the numbers and types of community organizations that support or condition volunteering, including schools, community foundations, human service nonprofits, fraternal organizations, etc. We will examine 1) how this civic infrastructure influences the volunteering behavior of seniors and whether the civic infrastructure has a different effect on seniors volunteering relative to younger individuals, 2) differences in how civic infrastructure affects senior volunteering across rural and urban places, 3) identify several different types of community profiles (e.g. highly educated, economically disadvantaged, arts-focused, etc.) and provide descriptive profiles of senior volunteering behavior in those types of communities.

University of Maine

Title: University of Maine Seniors Supplemental Study

Principal Investigators:  Jennifer Crittenden, PhD, University of Maine

Background: Building a Workforce Readiness Model for Older Adults: An Examination of the AmeriCorps Seniors Workforce Development Program:  The UMaine Center on Aging and the University of Maine Consortium for Aging Policy Research and Analysis (CAPRA) will carry out a mixed methods study of the nine inaugural programs funded across the U.S. under the Senior Workforce Development Senior Demonstration Project (SWD SDP) initiative. Using principles drawn from the Practical, Robust Implementation and Sustainability Model (PRISM) of implementation science, the research will entail annual surveys, in-depth site visit interviews and focus groups, learning community engagement, and secondary data analysis to identify the core, scalable, program elements that bolster older adult workforce development.

University of Texas at Austin

Title: University of Texas at Austin Seniors Supplemental Study

Principal Investigators:  Pamela Paxton, PhD, University of Texas at Austin, Department of Sociology, University of Texas at Austin Population Center

Background: This research will look at the potential ancillary benefits to AmeriCorps Seniors presence in communities. To understand these benefits we will work with ACS to acquire station names, locations, number of volunteers, and focus area (e.g., disaster, education, etc.). We will link these data to external sources of data on communities and conduct extensive analysis. A few possible examples include: (1) civic engagement through the new Social Capital Atlas; (2) health outcomes (including senior-specific health outcomes) through the Center for Disease Controls PLACES data; (3) student educational achievement data from the Stanford Education Data Archive; or (4) poverty data from the Census.

Virginia Tech - Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Title: Civic Engagement, Health, and Community: A Nationally-Representative Study on the Long-term Impacts of Civic Engagement during Emerging Adulthood

Principal Investigators:  Carlin Rafie, PhD, Virginia Tech; and Emily Zimmerman, PhD, Virginia Commonwealth University

Background: VCU and Virginia Tech will collaborate with Serve Virginia to implement a PhotoVoice project with AmeriCorps Seniors and AmeriCorps State and National service members in Virginia. This includes PhotoVoice training and projects that highlight the diversity of members as well as their varied motivations, experiences, and impact. We will produce a training manual that will allow for scaling the project in Virginia and nationally. We will work with AmeriCorps Seniors to integrate the results with social media outreach.

2022 Cohort, National Service and Civic Engagement Research Competition

In 2022, AmeriCorps awarded 21 research grants to academic institutions in 16 states and territories to support research of civic engagement, social cohesion, volunteering, and national service programs. 

Appalachian State University

Title: Civic Engagement, Health, and Community: A Nationally-Representative Study on the Long-term Impacts of Civic Engagement during Emerging Adulthood

Principal Investigators:  Martie Thompson, PhD, Appalachian State University, Department of Public Health & Exercise Sciences; and Matthew Hudson-Flege, PhD, Appalachian State University

Background: This study will investigate to the extent that civic engagement participation during emerging adulthood predicts positive physical, mental, and behavioral health outcomes in middle adulthood. The data includes using nationally representative sample of over 20,000 respondents surveyed over 5 times spanning 22 years from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health.

2022 Research Grantee Study One-Pager "Appalachian State University"

Arizona State University

Title: Assessing Diversity and Equity in Volunteer Inclusion

Principal Investigators:  Mark Hager, PhD, Arizona State University; and Faiza Venzant, Executive Director, Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration

Background: This research considers how volunteer management practices regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion might impinge on the experience of individual volunteers. The study will survey a sample of certified volunteer administrators in the US and query the practices and policies, and characteristics and attitudes of volunteer administrators regarding diversity and inclusion. It will also use focus groups to understand the key issues and barriers to enhancing inclusion in their organizations. 

2022 Research Grantee Study One-Pager "Arizona State University"

Research Grantee Publication Spotlight: ASU

Carleton College

Title: Using Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) insights to transform school policies & practices

Principal Investigators:  Anita Chikkatur, PhD, Carleton College

Community Partners:  Brooklyn Center Community Schools, Rochester Public Schools, St. Anthony/New Brighton Independent School District, St. Louis Park Public Schools, and YoUthROC/University of Minnesota

Background: This study will work with five community partners in rural and urban areas using youth participatory action research (YPAR) methodology. The study will investigate how youth and supportive adults can push for changes in their own schools, districts, and communities by connecting insights from youth research to professional development for educators, and by having youth representation in decision-making structures.

2022 Research Grantee Study One-Pager "Carleton College"

Drexel University

Title: Arts-centered Community Action: How Public Arts Programming Strengthens Civic Infrastructure and Promotes Civic Innovation

Principal Investigators:  Ayana Allen-Handy, PhD, Drexel University; and Rachel Wenrick, Drexel University

Community Partners:  Mantua Civic Association and ArtistYear

Background: This intergenerational community-led participatory action research (CPAR) project examines the potential impact of public arts programming to strengthen civic engagement, civic infrastructure, and to promote community-driven civic innovation in West Philadelphia. Community residents, students, faculty, youth, writers, and artists will collectively explore how a community can leverage the arts to solve community-identified issues such as gentrification, displacement, racial injustice, and systemic inequality. 

2022 Research Grantee Study One-Pager "Drexel University"

Fielding Graduate University

Title: Folk School Alliance Network: Strengthening a distributed network through participatory approaches

Principal Investigators:  David Blake Willis, PhD, Fielding Graduate University; and co-PI and community partner Dawn Jackman Murphy, Fielding Graduate University and Folk School Alliance

Community Partners:  Folk School Alliance, the African American Craft Initiative, Village Fire Coming Singing, and the LifeSchoolHouse

Background: The university and community partners will study how social cohesion and collaboration between loosely-linked independent local organizations may be supported by participatory research approaches. This research will also investigate how to scale these participatory approaches to strengthen a decentralized Folk School Alliance Network comprised of over 90 organizations that support the craft economy across the US. 

2022 Research Grantee Study One-Pager "Fielding Graduate University"

George Mason University

Title: Immigrants, Athletes, and Engagement

Principal Investigators:  James Witte, PhD, George Mason University; and Marissa Kiss, George Mason University

Background: This study will examine the degree to which immigrant athletes use their visibility, acceptance, and influence to extend the spirit of inclusiveness and equity to all New Americans. More specifically, we aim to determine if contact and engagement with immigrant athletes fosters more positive attitudes towards immigrants off the playing field.

2022 Research Grantee Study One-Pager "George Mason University"

Mississippi State University

Title: Democracy's colleges: Expanding civic Engagement, volunteering, and national service

Principal Investigators:  Carol Cutler White, PhD, Mississippi State University; and Stephanie King, PhD, Mississippi State University

Background: Community colleges as institutions of higher education are underrepresented in the literature on civic engagement and volunteering. Using a mixed method research design, this study examines the relationship between community college attendance/credential completion, employment and civic engagement/volunteering outcomes, how civic engagement opportunity varies by community college type and geography across the U.S., how AmeriCorps engages with community colleges in recruitment and placement, and the appropriate stipend level needed for community college AmeriCorps members in Mississippi.

2022 Research Grantee Study One-Pager "Mississippi State University"

Smith College

Title: Young People as Teachers

Principal Investigators:  Sam Intrator, PhD, Smith College; and Graeham Dodd, Ed.S., Smith College

Background: Programs that position young people as teachers (YPAT) are a promising and growing approach to supporting young adult development. YPAT programs provide opportunities for young people to learn about themselves while actively contributing to their communities. This mixed methods study will begin with a field scan of YPAT programs and then employ surveys and focus groups to investigate the extent to which serving as a teacher develops identity, agency and civic commitment, processes that Scales (2016) identifies as integral to young adult development.

2022 Research Grantee Study One-Pager "Smith College"

SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Title: Adapting in place: Exploring community and environmental wellness in the time of climate change

Principal Investigators: Maren King, MSLA, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry; and Christina Limpert, PhD, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Community Partners:  Syracuse Department of Neighborhood and Business Development

Background: This research seeks to better understand the Syracuse community’s knowledge and interest in the conditions of their neighborhood environments, how those conditions affect their health and well-being, and how people make sense of and react to the escalating environmental crises. This project will culminate with a community event bringing together an intergenerational advisory board that will guide the project, participants, community-based organizations working for equitable and healthy neighborhood environments, and elected local leadership, to foster dialogue around civic engagement in planning, programs, policy, and funding.

2022 Research Grantee Study One-Pager "SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry"

Trustees of Indiana University

Title: Observing Civic Engagement & Assessing Civic Infrastructure

Principal Investigators:  Brad Fulton, PhD, Indiana University; and Matthew Baggetta, PhD, Indiana University

Background: This longitudinal study will examine the internal dynamics of 60 civil society organizations (CSOs) in one community, assess their impact on promoting civic engagement, and learn how CSOs can conduct their activities in ways that effectively promote civic engagement. The project aims to: 1) uncover what goes on inside CSOs; specifically with respect to participation, interaction, networking, leadership, deliberation, and decision-making and 2) show how these internal dynamics influence CSOs' effectiveness in strengthening civic infrastructure, networks, and communities. 

2022 Research Grantee Study One-Pager "Trustees of Indiana University"

Tufts University

Title: Impact of COVID-era Mutual Aid Initiatives on Civic Infrastructure in Metro-Boston

Principal Investigators: Penn Loh, MSc, Tufts University

Community Partners:  Mutual Aid Eastie, City Life/Vida Urbana, and Neighbors United for a Better East Boston

Background: This study explores how mutual aid has impacted the civic infrastructure in the East Boston, a working-class community with a large concentration of Latinx immigrants and other people of color. The study brings together 4 to 6 groups active in mutual aid and asks how these efforts affected existing groups in terms of engagement methods, organizational infrastructure, and volunteers, as well as the opportunities and challenges for sustaining mutual aid and strengthening long-term civic infrastructure as COVID enters its next phase?

2022 Research Grantee Study One-Pager "Tufts University"

University of California Los Angeles

Title: Examining Today's Young Social Change Agents and Their Opportunities

Principal Investigators: Laura Wray-Wake, PhD, University of California Los Angeles

Background: To fully understand adolescents and young adults work to create a more just and equitable society, this research will document the civic agency, knowledge, actions, and purpose of young social change agents; how these civic engagement dimensions develop for youth of different gender, racial and ethnic, and sexual identities; and how they are sustained over time by opportunities and experiences. This research will inform scholarship on youth civic engagement, and seek to influence training and supports to sustain the civic engagement of young social change agents. 

2022 Research Grantee Study One-Pager "University of California Los Angeles"

University of Cincinnati

Title: Civic Action for Refugee Empowerment in Cincinnati

Principal Investigators: Anjali Dutt, PhD, University of Cincinnati; and Farrah Jacquez, PhD, University of Cincinnati

Community Partners:  Cincinnati Compass

Background: This action research will explore how to create and sustain meaningful and supportive civic engagement infrastructure for diverse refugee and immigrant communities. Utilizing a cycle of action research, local refugees and other stakeholders will provide focus groups, inform collective analysis and reflection, and develop and implement actions. The findings will inform local refugee communities, organizations and government, other organizations interested in civic engagement and/or refugee integration, and various academic arenas focused on community research. 

2022 Research Grantee Study One-Pager "University of Cincinnati"  

University of Denver

Title: Participatory research to build civic infrastructure through peer support programming among unhoused young people 

Principal Investigators: Kimber Bender, PhD, University of Denver

Community Partners:  Dry Bones

Background: This participatory action research (PAR) project is a collaboration with the university and a community project supporting unhoused young people to build civic infrastructure that centers lived expertise of homelessness. The team will co-train each other to build skills of inquiry and action, engage in collaborative participatory research, and formalize a peer support program—all while studying their process to inform how civic infrastructure can be built through PAR.

2022 Research Grantee Study One-Pager "University of Denver"

University of Georgia

Title: Examining the Influence of Civic Infrastructure on Rural/Urban Volunteering and Civic Engagement

Principal Investigators: Rebecca Nesbit, PhD, University of Georgia; and Laurie E. Paarlberg, PhD, Indiana University, Lily School of Philanthropy

Background: Shifting socio-demographic characteristics of communities and increasing disparities between rural and urban communities begs the question about how a community's institutional civic infrastructure (e.g. nonprofits, voluntary associations, philanthropic foundations) influences volunteering and other civic behaviors, particularly across rural and urban communities. This project explores this question using the confidential Current Population Survey (CPS) Volunteering Supplement, merged with county-level administrative records describing the local civic infrastructure (e.g. number of nonprofits, presence of community foundations).

2022 Research Grantee Study One-Pager "University of Georgia"

University of Maine

Title: The Future of Virtual Volunteerism Among Older Adults in a Post-Pandemic World: Is the Volunteer Sector Ready?

Principal Investigators: Jennifer Crittenden, PhD, University of Maine

Background: Volunteering supports positive health, well-being, and increased socialization for older adults. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased health and isolation risks while limiting traditional on-site volunteer placements. Virtual volunteer (VV) strategies have quickly developed to fill the gap in volunteerism opportunities. This research will explore the opportunities, and challenges of VV from volunteer and host program/site perspectives. This study also aims to identify the range of benefits and configurations, like VV, that make volunteering more accessible to older adult volunteers.

2022 Research Grantee Study One-Pager "University of Maine"

University of Nebraska at Omaha

Title: Examining Youth Civic Mobility in the Heartland

Principal Investigators: Jodi Benson, PhD, University of Nebraska

Background: This mixed method study will focus on understanding how young people ages 18-25 in the Heartland of the United States conceptualize and experience civic mobility in their communities.  Civic mobility describes the ways young people navigate civic life in their communities, organizations, and institutions, and is defined as the upward or downward movement of people or groups within a civic ecosystem.  

2022 Research Grantee Study One-Pager "University of Nebraska at Omaha"

University of Pittsburgh

Title: Research for Equity and Power

Principal Investigators: Mary Ohmer, PhD, University of Pittsburgh; and Co-PI and community partner Jason Beery, PhD, UrbanKind Institute, Director of Applied Research

Community Partners:  UrbanKind Institute

Background: This CBPR project will apply key concepts from REP's Equitable Development Playbook, a tool for advocacy and organizing, to identify and act on equity issues, including tangible projects in existing REP communities and a regional advocacy and organizing training and action plan developed alongside residents and advocates across the Pittsburgh region.  This project will explore how engaging residents in equitable development issues impacts their civic engagement and ability to influence changes in equity in their local and regional communities and informs future use of participatory approaches for long-term policy change.

2022 Research Grantee Study One-Pager "University of Pittsburgh"

University of Texas at Austin

Title: How Nonprofits Create Civic Infrastructure

Principal Investigators: Pamela Paxton, PhD, University of Texas at Austin, Department of Sociology, University of Texas at Austin Population Center

Background: This research will explore how, when, and why nonprofits undertake work that strengthens communities, including when nonprofits begin to tackle a community problem, how they approach community problems like violence, and whether bottom-up or top-down pressures lead nonprofits to become more inclusive in their work. This project will create a 25-year longitudinal database of multiple measures of nonprofit finances, expenditures, mission, capacity, and leadership over the period 1998-2022, leading to increased understanding of how nonprofits strengthen communities and support civic infrastructure.

2022 Research Grantee Study One-Pager "University of Texas at Austin"

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

Title: Lub Zej Zog: Hmong Educators Coalition Project

Principal Investigators: Jenna Cushing-Leubner, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

Community Partners: MN Zej Zog

Background: The Lub Zej Zog Hmong Educators Coalition will bring together PreK-16 Hmong educators, community experts, teaching artists, and Hmong youth from California, Minnesota, and Wisconsin and use participatory research to learn how community-directed designs of this coalition of PreK-16 Hmong educators strengthen civic infrastructure and increase civic engagement amongst people typically assumed to be recipients, rather than makers, of civic life and infrastructure.  

2022 Research Grantee Study One-Pager "University of Wisconsin-Whitewater"

Virginia Tech - Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Title: Scaling Up Participatory Action Planning _SEED

Principal Investigators: Carlin Rafie, PhD, Virginia Tech; and Emily Zimmerman, PhD, Virginia Commonwealth University

Community Partners: Cooperative Extension

Background: This project will evaluate the participatory process, known as the SEED Method for Question Development and Prioritization, used by 3 projects in rural Virginia counties addressing local opioid misuse. Participatory research will engage residents and local stakeholders to understand the factors that facilitate or hinder community efforts to reduce opioid misuse, and to develop a community-driven action plan. The evaluation will measure the extent to which the SEED process helps build networks and relationships with organizations, institutions, and decision makers to strengthen civic infrastructure. 

2022 Research Grantee Study One-Pager "Virginia Tech - Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University"

2018 Cohort, Community Conversations Research Competition

Research as a Path to Building Civic Engagement

In 2018, AmeriCorps awarded 16 research grants to 18 different institutions of higher education and their community partners in the Community Conversations research competition. Through the Community Conversations Cohort, AmeriCorps funds participatory research to engage communities in identifying and solving pressing issues. This participatory process produces more equitable and actionable solutions and connects national service with these communities for meaningful change. Through robust research methodology these grant project not only strengthen communities, but also foster civic engagement. 

Learn more about participatory research.

Carleton College

Title: Participatory Action Research on Rural Secondary Education: Experiences of Diverse Students, Parents, and Teachers 

Principal Investigators:  Anita Chikkatur, Associate Professor, Department of Educational Studies, Carleton College, and Emily Oliver, MFA, Associate Director, Director of the Center for Community and Civic Engagement, Carleton College 

Community Partners: Faribault Public Schools, Somali Community Resettlement Services, Community Without Borders 

Background: This project facilitates conversations about race, gender, class, and privilege between Latinx and Somali high school students, their parents, and white teachers within the Faribault school system.  

Recent Activity: Amidst a global pandemic and in response to a research-based need, the Latinx parent team put plans in place for a parent center. The Somali young adult research team produced podcast episodes about their experiences, while the high school student research team worked to select a research topic. 

Future Plans: The Latinx parent team plans to start the parent center, and the Somali young adult team plans to produce new podcast episodes. The high school team plans to collect and present data. Also, Carleton College plans to consult with the teams and secure additional funding. 

Findings and Insights: Effective communication and taking time to build relationships and trust within and across stakeholder groups has emerged as a key factor in transforming school, community, and individual practices to more effectively support Latinx and Somali students and families in Faribault.  

Additional Resources: 

Drew University

Title: Neighbors in Need: Housing the Most Vulnerable in Morris County  

Principal Investigators: Kesha Moore, PhD, Department of Sociology, Drew University, and Arthur Pressley, PhD, Drew University Theological School & Graduate Division of Religion 

Community Partners: Alicia Alvarez, Melissa Lapinski, and Franchesa Cifuentes - community researchers; Judy Pryor-Ramirez, community organizer 

Background: This project brings together university faculty, students, community residents, organizations, and government representatives to help end homelessness for the most vulnerable members of local communities. 

Recent Activity: The team added six student volunteers from the Center for Civic Engagement, developed a brand identity, held its first virtual meeting for Morris County landlords, launched a university course connected to the project, and kicked off a public engagement campaign to distribute research and inform key stakeholders. 

Future Plans: For daily public engagement, the team plans to focus on social media messaging and virtual meetings. They are hosting three meetings between landlords and elected officials to build stakeholder support. They also plan to digitally publish the three-year project, curriculum, and training toolkit. 

Findings and Insights: Research indicates that Neighbors in Need is growing in awareness among local housing agency leaders. The project partnered with Monarch Housing Associates, a statewide housing nonprofit agency, and Family Promise, a national housing organization, to further advance research and dissemination.  

Additional Resources

Drexel University

Title: Anti-Displacement: The Untapped Potential of University-Community Cooperative Living


Principal Investigators: Ayana Allen-Handy, PhD, Drexel University, School of Education, Department of Policy, Organization, and Leadership; and Rachel Wenrick, MFA, Drexel University, College of Arts and Sciences, Writers Room


Community Partners: De’Wayne Drummond, Mantua Civic Association; Carol Richardson McCullough, Writers Room; George Jenkins, YouthBuild Philadelphia; and Devin Welsh, ArtistYear

Background: This project brings together university faculty, community residents, students, and alumni to investigate the landscape of residential displacement and affordable housing options in the rapidly gentrifying and federally designated West Philadelphia Promise Zone.

Recent Activity: Shifting to a virtual format during the pandemic, research expanded to address urgent needs: access to food and technology. The team also implemented story sharing to strengthen intergenerational ties, initiated home surveys to assess repair needs, and presented at two conferences.

Future Plans: The team is planning a symposium to share research, a creative workshop to explore history in neighborhood homes, and roundtable discussions with community leaders and stakeholders. They will also continue case studies with elder residents to pilot two co-living houses.

Findings and Insights: Research indicates a high percentage of cost-burdened community members, a lack of affordable housing, and the rapid gentrification and displacement of Black residents. It also highlights the success of sharing stories as a vital connector during the pandemic.

Additional Resources:

Fielding Graduate University

Title: Leading from the Roots: U.S. Community Based Folk Schools Inspiring Social Action 

Principal Investigators: David Blake Willis, PhD, Fielding Graduate University, School for Leadership Studies; K. Melchor Hall, PhD, Fielding Graduate University, School for Leadership Studies 

Community Partners: Folk School Alliance, Adirondack Folk School, Arbutus Folk School, Bee Tree Folk School, Center for Belonging Folk School, Decker Creek Neighbors, Elevate Mason County, Fairbanks Folk School, Finnish American Folk School, Happiness Hills Farm, kwinayɫ ɫək Language Revitalization, Lewis County Young Adults, Marine Mills Folk School, Nature Nurture Farmacy, North House Folk School, Northwest Herbal Resilience, Old Growth Mountain Dulcimer Club, Winlock Community Garden. 

Background: Fielding Graduate University, Folk School Alliance, and Highlander Research and Education Center’s Education Team partnered to examine the impact of new US-based folk schools across the United States. Nine folk schools in eight states engaged in Participatory Action Research projects. 

Recent Activity: In fall 2020, the project expanded to include eight additional folk school sites, while projects at the first folk school, Arbutus Folk School, blossomed into long-term civic engagement and social action initiatives that have begun to garner ongoing community support.  

Future Plans: In June 2021, the project will host a Virtual Participatory Video Film Fest which will premiere mini-documentaries produced by participant researchers from the nine field research sites around the country. Films will be available thereafter through   

Findings and Insights: None at this time, as Fielding Graduate University and the community researchers continue to execute their projects. 

Additional Resources

Mississippi State University

Title: Voices of Hidden Figures in the Quest to Increase Postsecondary Access and Success through Civic Engagement 

Principal Investigators: Carol Cutler White, PhD, Mississippi State University, Department of Educational Leadership 

Community Partners:  Errick Simmons, J.D., Mayor, City of Greenville Mississippi, Jim McHale, Woodward Hines Educational Foundation 

Background: This project empowered community members to launch the Greenville College Access Network (Greenville CAN) in 2021 in Greenville, MS, the heart of the Mississippi Delta.  Greenville CAN establishes a community wide college-going culture addressing equity and poverty through civic engagement.  

Recent Activity: Volunteers have assisted community members with financial aid and college paperwork.  In May, the Greenville Mayor’s Office submitted a state AmeriCorps Planning Grant application to establish and expand the presence of and services provided by Greenville CAN.   

Future Plans: The Mayor’s office will sponsor and support Greenville CAN in service to the community.  Greenville submitted an AmeriCorps Planning Grant to the Volunteer MS AmeriCorps office.  When funded, AmeriCorps volunteers will support Greenville CAN community engaged college access services.  

Findings and Insights: Barriers to college access can be addressed by distributing services across the City. Community buy-in was abundant and existing partners, community trust, institutional trust, and community leadership play important roles in providing college access.  

Additional Resources

  • Greenville College Access Network Action Plan 

  • Research poster: Community-Engaged College Access: Model-building Expanded Service Delivery to Increase Post-Secondary Participation in High Poverty Contexts 

  • Working model for community trust and college access 

Smith College

Title: Transfer and Transition – The Challenge of Sustaining Impact beyond Community-Based Youth Programs 

Principal Investigators: Sam Intrator, PhD, Elizabeth A. Woodson 1922 Professor of Education & Child Study, Smith College; Denys Candy, Director, Smith College Jandon Center for Community Engagement 

Community Partners: Joesiah Gonzalez, New North Citizens' Council 

Background: This project brings together college faculty and staff with community partners to investigate the obstacles and barriers young people face as they transition out of high school.  

Recent Activity: In our initial study, our interview subjects identified out-of-school programs as critical during the transition to adulthood. In 2021, we launched a second study investigating how OST programs provide support, and also engaged a new team of researchers in Holyoke, MA. 

Future Plans: After interviewing 50 young adults, hosting four focus groups, and leading several public sessions, the team is focused on sharing our findings via digital stories, convenings with out of school leaders, a publication, blog-style articles, and more. 

Findings and Insights: Young people who grow up in socio-economically challenging circumstances face particular obstacles as they transition to adulthood. Out-of-school programs can provide developmental relationships, opportunities, skills, identity-building opportunities, and support that help smooth the transition.  

Additional Resources

SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

Title: Raising the Next Generation of Community Leaders: A Participatory Research Process with Teenagers of the Near Westside Neighborhood of Syracuse, New York 

Principal Investigators: Maren King and Christina Limpert, PhD, State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry  

Community Partners: Sarah Reckess and Leah Russell, Near Westside Peacemaking Project, a project of the Center for Court Innovation 

Background: This project brings together adult research team mentors and neighborhood teenagers as co-researchers to investigate and better understand the issues affecting young people's lives, like crime and violence, and develop pathways for positive growth as individuals and as community leaders.  

Recent Activity: Despite the pandemic, the project team refined and documented processes and findings for communication with community members and partners. Highlights include creating posters, PowerPoint presentations, and a Gathering Garden as a safe place to meet and relax. 

Future Plans: The team plans to distribute the posters and PowerPoint presentations, work with a social media mentor for greater reach, implement an evaluation research protocol, and maintain the Gathering Garden. They plan to prepare additional presentations on youth participatory action research.  

Findings and Insights: Fear for personal safety affects where participants go in the neighborhood, influences the amount of time they spend outside, and fosters stress and a lack of trust. Participants rely on family, supportive organizations, social media, and activities and educational opportunities for youth.  

Additional Resources: 

  • Narrated Presentation of process and findings (in progress) 

  • Teen Research Posters 

  • Teen Research Social media (in progress) 

Tufts University

Title: From Civic Participation to Community Control: Assessing and Strengthening Participatory Planning for Commercial District Development in Boston’s Dudley Neighborhood 

Principal Investigators: Penn Loh, Tufts University, Senior Lecturer and Director of Community Practice, Department of Urban & Environmental Policy & Planning 

Community Partners: John Smith, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative 

Background: This project explores how civic engagement can strengthen community capacity for control over land use and economic development in Boston’s Dudley neighborhood, where poverty and high unemployment and underemployment persist.  

Recent Activity: The team supported a DSNI steering committee to review developer proposals for a building in Upham’s Corner and select a developer. The team continues to support DSNI to co-facilitate with City of Boston the ongoing process for two City-owned sites. 

Future Plans: The team plans to continue supporting community review of development proposals and implementation for Upham’s Corner. They also plan to explore how community groups responded to the pandemic – and how that has impacted their civic engagement.  

Findings and Insights: Creative and arts-based engagements were not only appropriate for planning an arts innovation district, but can help garner broader and more meaningful participation. Activities should be fun, but they require additional time to plan. 

Additional Resources

University of Cincinnati

Title: Civic Action for Refugee Empowerment in Cincinnati (CARE Cincinnati) 

Principal Investigators: Anjali Dutt, PhD, and Farrah Jacquez, PhD, University of Cincinnati, Department of Psychology 

Community Partners: Bryan Wright, Cincinnati Compass 

Background: This project brings together researchers, refugees, and community partners to explore strengths in the Cincinnati refugee community that can be harnessed to actualize community identified goals and identify empowering changes to promote civic engagement.  

Recent Activity: During the pandemic, co-researchers conducted surveys with 177 refugees and identified employment, housing, health, school, and food access needs. The team pivoted work to distribute aid more equitably to refugees. 

Future Plans: The team plans to implement and evaluate a Community Leaders Institute to prepare 50 refugees for community leadership positions. They also plan to finish an “insider’s guide” video series to help refugees across seven communities access resources.  

Findings and Insights: The team found that the biggest concerns for refugees were neighborhood violence, challenges in workplace settings, and navigating systems. They also noted high levels of satisfaction with the friendships refugees had formed, and a desire to make a difference in the community.  

Additional Resources

  • Jacquez, F., Dutt, A., Manirambona, E. & Wright, B. (in press). Uniting Liberatory and Participatory Approaches in Public Psychology with Refugees. American Psychologist.    

  • Dutt, A., Jacquez, F. M., Chaudhary, N., Wright, B., Adhikari, R., Adhikari, T., Al Shehabi, A., Arnaout, M., Bhandari, M., Macow, H., Mbuyi, M., Manirambona, E., Marembo, A., Muhamed, Y., Mwesha, C., Martínez de Abughosh, L. (in press). Creating Collective Solidarity: Insights from the Development and Process Evaluation of Civic Action for Refugee Empowerment in Cincinnati (CARE: Cincinnati). Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology.   

  • Dutt, A., Jacquez, F., Kirkendall, A., Wright, B., & Alwan, R. (under review). Exploring the experiences of refugees in the United States in decolonial perspective: A local case study in the context of global crisis. 

University of Denver

Title: Mutual Aid as a Bridge to Social Capital and Civic Engagement among Youth Experiencing Homelessness 

Principal Investigators: Kimberly Bender 

Community Partners: James Erangey, Connor Marvin, Meredith Mollica, and Tom Lucas, Colorado Coalition for the Homeless 

Background: This study brings together the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and the University of Denver to understand how mutual aid can support young people experiencing homelessness to build social capital and civic engagement. 

Recent Activity: The team developed a lightening talk on barriers to social capital among young people experiencing homelessness, an animated video on peer support specialists, a guide to hiring peers, and a tool for young people to find work as peer support specialists.  

Future Plans: The team is extending work to partner with other youth participatory action research teams to study how such teams navigate power sharing. They are also studying a grassroots community building organization to understand how they support young people in developing social capital.  

Findings and Insights: The team found that mapping the power and resource realities, values guiding the work, growth edges, and limitations and constraints, can aid teams in navigating power on power diverse teams. They also discovered how peer support specialists uniquely build connections with young people experiencing homelessness.   

Additional Resources

University of Houston and Texas Southern University

Title: Building Civic Engagement in the Post-Harvey Context: Exploring Facilitators and Barriers to Civic Activity in Four Hurricane-Affected Communities in Houston  

Principal Investigators: Suzanne Pritzker, PhD, University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work; Denae King, PhD, Texas Southern University; Barbara Jordan, Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs 

Community Partners: Bridgette Murray, Founder and Executive Director of Achieving Community Tasks Successfully; Maria Aguiree-Borrero, Director of Community Initiatives, Avenue; Deborah Chen, Civic Engagement Programs Director - OCA-Greater Houston Chapter; Becky Edmondson, President, Westbury Area Improvement Corporation 

Background: University of Houston, Texas Southern University, and community partners are studying four Houston-area communities affected by Hurricane Harvey to better understand how residents perceive civic engagement and how the disaster experience has impacted their civic engagement. 

Recent Activity: With repeated extreme weather events, residents want to understand where to obtain trustworthy disaster preparedness, response, and recovery information. Partner communities have implemented initial strategies that require little funding to address preliminary focus group recommendations.  

Future Plans: The team plans to continue to identify subthemes related to civic engagement definitions, facilitators, and barriers. They will refine community-specific recommendations and an overall civic engagement action plan, plus begin to analyze data collected from a supplemental COVID project. 

Findings and Insights: The team found that that leaders need to be mindful of language barriers and immigrant perspectives related to civic engagement, particularly as it relates to natural disasters. They also noted the importance of sharing accessible, pertinent information across four diverse communities. 

University of Nevada

Title: Making the Invisible Visible with Photovoice: Addressing Slow Violence through Community-Based Participatory Research and Civic Engagement with Youth in Nevada 

Principal Investigators: Jennifer Willett, PhD, University of Nevada, Reno, School of Social Work 

Community Partners: Jennifer Sims, MSW, Upward Bound 

Background: This project empowers high school students from Title 1 schools to serve as co-researchers along with a professor and local partners. The research aims to understand and resolve complex problems arising from environmental injustices and climate change. 

Recent Activity: The team started a social media campaign to build awareness of how environmental injustices affect low-income communities and presented to the AmeriCorps Nevada delegation and NCCC teams. They also collected and distributed over 100 winter survival kits to homeless people in Reno. 

Future Plans: The team is planning to build a new NCCC team in 2021. They also are seeking more relationships to continue outreach and collect data, plus plan to write a paper on how to coordinate participatory action research with youth remotely. 

Findings and Insights: Youth scientists found that slow violence was common in working class neighborhoods, and that it impacted traditionally vulnerable people in different ways, even in the same neighborhoods. Slow violence accumulated due to inequitable services/infrastructure and could be resolved with structural changes.  

Additional Resources

University of Pittsburgh

Title: Strengthening Resident Civic Engagement on Behalf of Equitable Development: Partnering for Community-Based Participatory Research in Homewood 

Co-Principal Investigator: Mary L. Ohmer, PhD, University of Pittsburgh, School of Social Work 

Co-Principal Investigator and Community Partner: Shannah Tharp Gilliam, PhD, Homewood Children’s Village (HCV) 

Background: This project engages residents as leaders in understanding and acting on the local definition of civic engagement and the community's desire to strategically foster equitable development. The University of Pittsburgh and HCV are exploring what the community considers civic engagement, development, and equity. 

Recent Activity: Created an Equitable Development Playbook and shared the playbook and project results through local, regional, and national workshops and presentations. Also connected with new community partners and continued bi-monthly team and monthly CAB meetings to develop and implement project activities.   

Future Plans: Continue team and CAB meetings. With Homewood CAB members, conduct interviews with policy makers that participated in their Community Conversations.  Implement community conversations and create a community specific playbook with new partners in the Hazelwood neighborhood. Connect Homewood and Hazelwood CABs. 

Findings and Insights: Conversations with Homewood residents revealed that relationship building, transparency and accountability, along with community benefits and mutual gains are most important for engaging in genuine research partnerships.  

Additional Resources: 

University of Puerto Rico at Humacao

Title: INARO: Montones de voluntades, transforman realidades. 

Principal Investigators: Carlos Vázquez Rivera, Ph.D. & Grekchy Meléndez Hernández, Psy.D. 

Community Partners: Luz Sánchez Díaz, Jenniffer Abreu Santana, Alicia Montañez Cruz, Bryan Sanabria, Dagnairé Rodríguez Sánchez, Jacquelinee Rojas-Livia, Alexandra Mattos Vázquez & Nilda Cuadra de Jesús.

Background: Despite the stress from Hurricanes Maria and Irma in Puerto Rico, the disasters resulted in a greater sense of community and appreciation. This project brings together university faculty, community members, and students to explore the community characteristics that promote or inhibit civic engagement and community cohesion.  

Recent Activity: The INARO´s Community Research Team collected data by holding seven focus groups, administering 86 questionnaires, and conducting 11 interviews with a total of 160 participants. They also completed community mapping and delivered food baskets to over 800 families in the Montones community.  

Future Plans: The team plans to recruit participants for COVID-19 data collection through 10 focus groups and 20 interviews for a total of 70 participants. They also plan to rethink and reprogram some of the phases and activities to complete the Community Action Plan.   

Findings and Insights: For leaders and researchers alike, knowing better the community is essential. The 53% of the people living in Montones are 60 years old or older. Ana 64% describes themselves as a person with disability. Currently four generation are living in the community. 

Additional Resources

  • INARO: Lots of wills, transform realities: Community and participation in socio-natural disasters scenarios (paper submitted for publication) 

  • INARO: Challenges and obstacles to civic engagement in a rural community (paper submitted for publication) 

  • Four Community Bulletins on project progress and the preliminary results of our Participatory Action Research  

University of Wisconsin Whitewater

Profile coming soon!

Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech

Title: Participatory Action Planning to Address the Opioid Epidemic in a Rural Virginia Community

Principal Investigators: Dr. Carlin Rafie, Virginia Tech Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise, and Extension Specialist/Virginia Cooperative Extension, and Dr. Emily Zimmerman, VCU Department of Family Medicine and Population Health and Senior Researcher/Director of Community Engaged Research and Qualitative Research at the VCU Center on Society and Health

Community Partners: Martinsville Opioid Task Force, Piedmont Community Services, Sovah Health, and the West Piedmont Department of Health

Background: This study brings together community partners and stakeholders in Martinsville/Henry County to address the opioid crisis through a multisector collaboration among a broad array of stakeholders to identify strategies, and plan and implement changes.

Recent Activity: Four action workgroups have made significant progress establishing a drug court, implementing a new program to connect people to recovery and treatment, expanding youth/parent prevention education, and increasing awareness of opioid misuse treatment and recovery services in the community.  

Future Plans: The team is evaluating the outcomes of the project, expanding activities in Patrick County, and providing technical support for a similar project in Minnesota. The evaluation includes a survey,  interviews, and a Ripple Effects Mapping exercise with community members. 

Findings and Insights: Two of the most significant insights that have come from this project include the effectiveness of the SEED Method’s community engagement approach for mobilizing support for common action, and the importance of sustained engagement with the community to achieve real change.

Additional Resources:

2017 Cohort, National Service and Civic Engagement Research Competition

In 2017, AmeriCorps awarded research grants to support dissertators conducting their Ph.D. research, or scholars, researchers, and postdoctoral researchers with a proven track record and standing in their respective fields. The 2017 awardees included four dissertators and nine scholars.

Arizona State University

Title: Volunteer Management Capacity II: The State of the Art of Nonprofit Volunteer Administration 

Principal Investigator: Mark Hager, PhD, Arizona State University 

Co-Principal Investigator: Jeffrey Brudney, PhD, University of North Carolina, Wilmington (deceased April 2021) 

Background: Arizona State University and the University of North Carolina, Wilmington teamed up to study nonprofit organizations and their policies and procedures to maximize the experience and contributions of volunteers. The team focuses on how volunteer management capacity evolves over time. 

Recent Activity: The team finalized content and design for a public brief on the project and distributed it online.  

Future Plans: The team will work to present and promote the public brief in development. They also plan to use the data to publish more detailed reports.  

Findings and Insights: The team found: nonprofits have not increased volunteer management capacity; investments in that capacity result in benefits from volunteers; and nonprofit size and attention matter when building and assessing capacity. They also found: volunteers want short-term assignments; electronic tools and social media are rearranging volunteer interactions; and volunteers will help craft a post-pandemic society. 

Additional Resources

California State University San Marcos

Title: Cultivando Sabiduría (Cultivating Wisdom)  

Principal Investigator: Marisol Clark-Ibanez, PhD 

Co-Principal Investigator: Arcela Nunez-Alvarez, PhD 

Background: A team from the National Latino Research Center is conducting one of the largest mixed-method studies on volunteering and civic engagement among Latino elders. The study examines the impact of participation in a civic engagement class for low-income, Spanish-speaking Latino elders with little or no formal education. 

Recent Activity: The pandemic forced the team to close the in-person program, but they were able to call and track elders who needed resources. The team focused on finalizing the community book and creating presentations to help others learn about the program. 

Future Plans: The team requested a no-cost extension to conduct more quantitative data analysis, finalize the community book, and create webinar-style presentations.  

Findings and Insights: The team’s approach to teaching elders about civic engagement sparked a love for ‘attending school,’ which many said they had not experienced before. Also, the team created two literacy classes after the elders voiced a need to learn to read and write in Spanish and English.  

Additional Resources

Clemson University

Title: Getting Things Done for Life: Long-term Outcomes of AmeriCorps Service for Diverse Groups of Members 

Principal Investigator: Martie Thompson, PhD 

Co-Principal Investigator: Matthew Hudson-Flege 

Background: To help improve member experience and recruitment efforts, this project examines the long-term impact that AmeriCorps service has on diverse groups of members.  

Recent Activity: The team has been conducting interviews with alumni from a disaster relief AmeriCorps program and have presented their research to AmeriCorps programs in South Carolina.  

Future Plans: The team is preparing a white paper for AmeriCorps program leaders to summarize research findings. They also plan to propose a book on available AmeriCorps programs, detailing how to join and how to prepare for an effective year of service.  

Findings and Insights: The team found that original profiles of AmeriCorps members as Young Idealists, Wanderers, Gappers, and Public Servants held true.  

Additional Resources

Trustees of Indiana University - Civil Society Organizations

Title: What Happens in Civil Society Organizations? The Effects of Internal Dynamics on Organizational Outcomes

Principal Investigator: Matthew Baggetta, PhD 

Co-Principal Investigator: Brad Fulton, PhD 

Background: This project uses an innovative data collection technique – systematic social observation – to analyze the internal dynamics of civil society organizations and how they affect an organization’s outcome.  

Recent Activity: The team worked to clean and analyze existing data, then write up results. They worked on papers discussing how systematic social observation can help analyze a wide variety of civic engagements, and how physical features of a convening space impact convening outcomes.   

Future Plans: The team is preparing to attend 1,000 meetings, events, and activities for nonprofit organizations, collecting quantitative data from each gathering. They will conduct interviews, then combine the data to describe variations in meetings and explain their outcomes.   

Findings and Insights: The team found that interaction at convenings is common, but not all meetings generate the same level of interaction. Number of participants and characteristics of a space determine participant interaction.  

Additional Resources

Trustees of Indiana University - Effects of Volunteering on Economic Outcomes

Title: Effects of Volunteering on Economic Outcomes: A Longitudinal Study 

Principal Investigator: Una Osili, PhD 

Co-Principal Investigator: Sara Konrath, PhD 

Background: This project examines whether volunteering during adolescence can increase the likelihood of productive activity during early adulthood, especially among socially and/or economically disadvantaged youth. It suggests volunteering provides access to job and educational opportunities through social networks and improved health, reducing economic and social inequality. 

Recent Activity: The team submitted a paper on predictors of youth volunteering and charitable giving. They are also working on papers about whether teens who volunteer or donate are more likely to be engaged in productive activity in young adulthood, and the social and psychological implications of teen volunteering and giving.  

Future Plans: The team plans to complete drafts of the remaining two papers and develop a short research brief for practitioners and policymakers to share findings from the project. They intend to share the brief online and through social media.   

Findings and Insights: The team found that teens who volunteered were more likely to be enrolled in college when they were young adults. Young adults who volunteered during adolescence also earned a higher income and were less financially dependent on their parents.  

Additional Resources: 

University of California Los Angeles

Title: A Multimethod Examination of Urban Youth Civic Engagement 

Principal Investigator: Laura Wray-Lake, PhD 

Co-Principal Investigator: Laura Abrams, PhD 

Background: This project aims to generate new understanding of what civic engagement looks like for Black youth and other youth of color in urban contexts and how risks and assets shape urban youth civic engagement. 

Recent Activity: The team conducted qualitative interviews with 43 young Black changemakers in Los Angeles to understand how Black youth become civically engaged and sustain their engagement. The interviews also describe how Black youth are processing and engaging in the current political moment.  

Future Plans: The team is working to distribute findings and solicit feedback by launching a series of sessions with community organizations in Los Angeles that serve young Black changemakers. Their website will be updated with reports on findings. Visit    

Findings and Insights: The team found that some youth responded to community violence by disconnecting from community, whereas others responded through civic engagement. Civic empowerment and feeling heard and supported by adults were key factors that related to civic engagement for these youth.  

Additional Resources

University of Denver Graduate Schools of Social Work and University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work

Title: Civic Engagement Through the Voices of Latino/a Youth: Exploring Definitions, Supports, and Barriers 

Principal Investigator: Nicole Nicotera, PhD 

Co-Principal Investigators: Amanda McBride, PhD; Suzanne Pritzker, PhD 

Background: This study aims to better understand how Latinx youth conceptualize civic engagement, what supports and encourages them to be involved, what obstacles keep them from being involved, and how they think young people could be supported to engage civically. 

Recent Activity: Led by youth co-researchers, the team shared three virtual presentations on youth-derived strategies for engaging Latinx youth. They presented to Texas civic engagement organization leaders and organizers as well as shared information at academic social work conferences. 

Future Plans: The team plans to continue distributing information to community and academic audiences. They are preparing infographics and manuscripts for presentation.   

Findings and Insights: The team found several ways to encourage young people to engage civically, including create safe environments, increase civic knowledge, provide positive messages around engagement, communicate civic information, and adopt family-based approaches.  

Additional Resources

University of Georgia

Title: Examining the Determinants of Rural/Urban Volunteering 

Principal Investigator: Rebecca Nesbit, PhD, University of Georgia 

Co-Principal Investigator: Laurie Paarlberg, PhD, Texas A&M University 

Background: This study aims to examine the determinants of rural and urban volunteering. It explores how county contextual factors impact a variety of volunteering behaviors, such as whether someone volunteers, where they volunteer, and the number of hours they spend volunteering.  

Recent Activity: The project was temporarily stalled due to a lab closure (COVID), but we have recently requested disclosure from the Census Bureau for our next set of results.  We are currently conducting analysis investigating the sharp decline of volunteering in rural places.    

Future Plans: We expect our first article to be accepted at a journal during summer 2021.  By the end of summer 2021, we will have written our second article and several policy briefs.  We are also completing analysis for a third journal article during summer 2021.   

Findings and Insights: Volunteering rates in rural places have historically been higher than in urban places, but volunteering in both areas is declining.  Personal and community resources levels are stronger drivers of volunteering in rural places than in urban places.   

Additional Resources

  •  “Exploring the Intensity of Volunteering Across Rural and Urban Communities”, Paper presented at the 2020 ARNOVA Research Conference, November 11th-13th, 2020, Virtual.  

  • “The Differential Effect of Racial Diversity on Volunteering in Rural and Non-Rural Places”, Paper presented at the 2019 ARNOVA Research Conference, November 21st-23rd, 2019, San Diego, CA.  

  • “The Moderating Effect of Rurality on the Incidence and Intensity of Volunteering Behavior”, Paper presented at the 2019 European Research Network on Philanthropy (ERNOP) conference, July 4th-5th, Basel, Switzerland.    

University of Maine

Title: Juggling Multiple Roles: An Examination of Role Conflict  

Principal Investigator: Jennifer Crittenden 

Co-Principal Investigator: Sandra Butler, PhD 

Background: This project utilizes a national sample of AmeriCorps Seniors Retired Senior Volunteer Program volunteers and program sites to study how older adult volunteers experience role conflict between their volunteer role and other social roles and how volunteer programs can help.  

Recent Activity: The team completed interviews on support practices for volunteers who are caregivers or who are employed. They set up a webpage with project publications, presentations, and other materials. Findings have been shared through professional dissemination activities and presentations.   

Future Plans: The team is wrapping up project work and plans to focus on developing three professional manuscripts for journal submission and publishing a program-level manual based on interview findings.  

Findings and Insights: The team found that older adults report benefits from volunteering that they apply to working, caregiving, and community helping. They also found that flexible scheduling and support resources can help volunteers who are also working and experiencing role conflict. 

Additional Resources

University of Michigan

The University of Michigan’s period of performance for this award was from October 2017 - October 2019. See below for their executive summary.

Principal Investigator and Doctoral Advisor: Dr. Matthew A. Diemer

Co-Principal Investigator and PhD Student: Aixa Marchand

Title of Study: Parental Critical Consciousness: Conceptualization, Measurement, and Links to Parental School Engagement

Summary: Although there are decades of research noting the positive benefits of parent involvement, Black parents are often viewed as uninvolved in their childrenʹs education partly due to societal stereotypes. Using Critical Race Theory to understand how race influences Black parentsʹ participation within the public educational system, this mixed‐methods study will explore Black parentsʹ critical consciousness (CC), which can be conceptualized as an extension of civic engagement in that it encompasses the activities performed to benefit the academic success of their children and other children within their community. To explore these open questions, qualitative interviews will be conducted with approximately 20 Black parents in Southeastern Michigan. The main research question motivating this study is: how do Black parentsʹ critical analysis of social and educational inequities influence their motivations to interact with their childrenʹs school? These data will be analyzed using inductive and iterative approaches. Themes from the qualitative data will be used to develop an instrument to measure parental CC. The proposed scale will be sent to a separate sample of parent participants to perform exploratory factor analyses and confirmatory factor analyses.

Relevance for the field: Elucidating the ways that Black parents critically view their position within public schools and how they subsequently engage within them would advance current scholarship, inform educational practice, and provide a better understanding of how to strengthen the relationships between public schools and Black parents. Given the role of CNCS in supporting academic engagement the findings may inform agency program development.

University of Texas at Austin

Title: Nonprofits, Civic Infrastructure, and Health and Well-Being 

Principal Investigator:  Pamela Paxton, PhD 

Background: This project will create a database including thousands of measures of nonprofit finances, expenditures, mission, capacity, and leadership. It will also create county- and city-level measures of civic infrastructure such as volunteerism and nonprofit capacity. 

Recent Activity: The team published research on nonprofits and emotion in the American Sociological Review. The research showed that when nonprofits use positive emotion, combined with positive and negative emotion, to describe their work, they can get more donations and volunteers.    

Future Plans: The team has started research to understand how nonprofits have responded to the opioid epidemic. They are using administrative data from over 1000 nonprofits to analyze how organizations confront opioid addiction.     

Findings and Insights: The team continues to gather data on the opioid project.   

Additional Resources

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Title: Reevaluating the Workplace-Civic Engagement Relationship 

Principal Investigator:  Michael M. Bell, PhD 

Co-Principal Investigators: Laura Schlachter, Kristinn Már  

Background: This project leverages survey and interview data to address questions about the relationship between workplace organization and civic engagement during one’s lifetime. The team analyzes whether participatory forms of workplace organization can be a strategy to increase civic engagement. 

Recent Activity: The team conducted supplementary analysis comparing civic engagement rates of workers in cooperatives and the general U.S. population. They completed a manuscript on workplace and civic engagement in democratic firms and submitted it to a sociology journal.  

Future Plans: The team plans to revise and resubmit the manuscript on workplace and civic engagement in cooperatives, publish a report about key findings, conduct a new study about “supervolunteers,” and analyze new civic enrichment questions in the 2021 Current Population Survey. 

Findings and Insights: The civic spillover hypothesis proposes that participation at work begets participation in civic life. We complicate extant theory by empirically motivating an alternative civic enrichment hypothesis whereby individuals opt into or create workplaces that more closely embody their civic ideals. 

Additional Resources

Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth University’s period of performance for this award was from October 2017 - October 2020. See below for their executive summary.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Emily Zimmerman

Title of Study: Resident leadership and local capacity building: Volunteerism in disadvantaged communities

Summary: This study aims to contribute to knowledge about the processes and impact of volunteering by examining the characteristics of neighborhood‐based and regional volunteers and organizations in Richmond, Virginia’s East End neighborhood. The project will be co‐led by an academic research team at Virginia Commonwealth University and Engaging Richmond, a community‐university partnership, using a community‐based, participatory research framework. RVA Engage, a local coalition addressing regional volunteerism, will serve as the project steering committee. Research questions focus on how the personal characteristics and volunteer activities of neighborhood‐based and regional volunteers differ; whether there is synergy between the efforts of neighborhood‐based and regional volunteers and organizations; and how regional volunteers and organizations maximize collaboration with neighborhood‐based volunteers, leaders, and organizations. We will identify best practices for regional volunteers and organizations working in economically disadvantaged communities. We will conduct a mixed‐methods study with 50 semi‐standardized, in‐depth interviews with volunteers living in Richmond’s East End and those living in other communities, volunteer coordinators, and local leaders on volunteerism. We will also conduct an online surveys with eligible volunteers (e.g., age 18 and over who have volunteered in the East End in the past 24 months) from organizations in the East End and regional organizations. The study partners will collaborate to disseminate findings, including presentations to community partners and other community stakeholders, national conferences, and publication in appropriate print/web outlets.

Relevance for the field: This study aims to contribute to knowledge about the processes and impact of volunteering by examining the characteristics of neighborhood‐based and regional volunteers and organizations in Richmond, Virginia’s East End neighborhood. The findings can provide important information for organizations recruiting volunteers to work either within their own neighborhoods or to work in other areas – as all CNCS programs do – making findings potentially informative for enhancing how we engage communities with volunteers.

2015 Cohort, National Service and Civic Engagement Research Competition

In 2015, AmeriCorps awarded grants to seven higher education institutions to research the economic benefits of national service, volunteering, and civic engagement, develop innovative research methods that can be applied to national service models, and explore relationships among civic engagement, national service, and volunteering.

Arizona State University

What are the employment outcomes of AmeriCorps Alumni?

Principal Investigator: Morrison Institute

Morrison Institute for Public Policy is a statewide leader in examining critical issues for Arizona and the region, and is a catalyst for public dialogue. As an Arizona State University resource, Morrison Institute uses nonpartisan research, analysis, and public outreach to help improve the state's quality of life.

As a 2015 National Service and Civic Engagement Competition grantee through CNCS, Morrison Institute is conducting follow-up research on a pilot study to better understand the employability and employment outcomes of AmeriCorps members. The follow-up study expands a previous analysis of Arizona’s AmeriCorps programs to five states across the country: Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Tennessee, and Washington. Using a mixed? methods research and evaluation design that includes 367 phone surveys, 15 focus groups with AmeriCorps alumni and supervisors, and eight interviews with AmeriCorps State Commissioners, the study examines the personal and professional networks emerging within the AmeriCorps program, which can lead to positive employment outcomes.

Overall, the findings of the cross-state study were consistent with the previous Morrison Institute’s 2016 report, “AmeriCorps: Arizona’s Pipeline to Employment.” Both studies found that AmeriCorps programming faces challenges in communication, coordination, and continuity. The takeaways for service members and organizations involved in the AmeriCorps program can best be described by those who served in the program: their service experience was transformative and it prepared them to work.

Additional Resources:

California State University San Marcos

Can a culturally relevant civic engagement program promote increased civic learning & activities for Latinos?

To what extent do non-traditional methods successfully measure Latino civic engagement?

The National Latino Research Center (NLRC) is an applied research center at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) whose mission is to promote scientific and applied research, training, and the exchange of information that contribute to the knowledge and understanding of rapidly growing U.S. Latino populations. In order to fulfill this mission, the NLRC received a grant through the CNCS 2015 National Service and Civic Engagement Research Competition under the scholar category.

The Cultivando Liderazgo (Cultivating Leadership) study examines changes in civic engagement behavior, including traditional forms of political involvement (e.g., voting, volunteering for candidates or political organizations, contributions to campaigns) and nontraditional civic engagement activities (e.g., grassroots efforts aimed to shape local initiatives or produce positive social change at the community level) among Latino/a adults and youth. Through a longitudinal survey, the Cultivando Liderazgo study seeks to understand the civic engagement of participants who are learning the curriculum alongside their families and those attending the class as individuals. It also explores the dynamics of geographical infrastructure and accessibility on the effects of civic engagement curriculum. A supplemental study engaged in community conversations with Latinos/as using photo-elicitation interviews and oral histories with artifacts to showcase the depth of civic engagement.

The study has concluded and the project is currently conducting data analysis for all time periods – baseline, after the course ended, and 3 months afterwards. Specific analysis has included results for women, millennials, and elders. A serious of reports to the community on the data analysis has occurred in Spring 2019. Scholarly manuscripts are in progress. The project seeks to share ways to scale up the Cultivando Liderazgo approach.

Additional Resources:

Case Western Reserve University

Does training AmeriCorps members to serve as tobacco cessation coaches help primary care providers address tobacco use?

Principal Investigator: Nicholas Cohen, MD

Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) is a top-ranked private research university serving more than 10,000 students in Ohio.  As a recipient of a 2015 National Service and Civic Engagement Research Competition grant, Case Western Reserve studied an AmeriCorps program at University Hospitals of Cleveland, the largest healthcare provider in northeast Ohio and an affiliate hospital of CWRU.

Through the hospital, the program trained AmeriCorps members to serve as coaches and deliver a tobacco cessation intervention in primary care practices to patients who smoke. As part of the CNCS research grant, the university measured the impact of the coaches on providers’ likelihood to address tobacco use in visits with patients, the quit rates of smokers at six-month follow-up appointments, and revenue generated by practices that bill for referring patients to AmeriCorps service members to help quit smoking.

Initial study findings showed that providers are 10 times more likely to address tobacco cessation with smokers when a coach is available. The study also found that patients quit at a rate of 40 percent at six-month follow-up appointments, and that the average revenue generated for a referral to the service member was $11 per referral, across all insurance types.

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George Mason University

Are economic opportunity and success for immigrants tied to higher levels of social capital, civic engagement, and volunteering?

Principal Investigator: Dr. Jim Witte
Co-Principal Investigators: Drs. Amy Best, Shannon Davis, and John Dale

The mission of the George Mason University Institute for Immigration Research (IIR) is to refocus the immigration conversation among academics, policy-makers, and the public – including the business community and media – by producing and disseminating unbiased and objective, interdisciplinary academic research related to immigrants and immigration to the United States. Research conducted by the IIR examines the economic impact of all immigrant groups, with a particular emphasis on the economic contributions of immigrant entrepreneurs with high level of education or skills.

In an effort to develop innovative research methods for application to national service models, CNCS awarded the IIR a 2015 National Service and Civic Engagement Research Competition grant to research the economic benefits of national service, volunteering, and civic engagement. Specifically, the study examines the complex and dynamic relationship between professional success and civic engagement among educated immigrant professionals. Quantitative analysis of survey data collected across seven U.S. cities examined how volunteering translates into greater employment and earnings  A supplemental grant provided additional support to the study, while also integrating address-level IRS data on nonprofits with the study’s survey data and data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The study resulted in three main conclusions. First, through quantitative analysis, it determined that there is a complicated relationship between social capital and immigrant professionals’ civic engagement as measured by voter registration and volunteerism. Second, a clear connection remains between civic engagement and economic success that does not seem to operate solely through the acquisition of social capital. And third, cities shape the interconnections among social capital, civic engagement, and economic success among immigrant professionals.

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Tulane University

Profile coming soon.

Tufts University

Does listing national service on a resume positively impact job prospects?

How do hiring managers from Employers for National Service view candidates with national service experience?

Principal Investigator: Dr. Peter Levine

Co-Principal Investigators: Dr. Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg (Tufts), Dr. Jodi Benenson (University, Nebraska Omaha)

Tufts University is home to more than 45 interdisciplinary centers and institutes focused on a broad range of topics, from medicine, science, and technology to animals and the environment. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) is one such center that focuses research in the field of youth civic engagement. CIRCLE is part of Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life.

Tisch College’s CIRCLE received a CNCS 2015 National Service and Civic Engagement Research Competition grant to conduct a field experiment exploring whether listing national service on a job candidate’s application materials had a positive or significant impact on the prospect of getting a job.  Through a supplemental grant, the CIRCLE researchers are exploring the perceptions of AmeriCorps service among hiring managers using surveys, in-depth interviews, and a resume-based experiment to examine the Employers of National Service program.

The study found there was not a significant difference between resumes when it comes to callbacks based on national service. Of the 2,010 jobs applied for using fictitious resumes, there was a 20 percent callback rate across resume types. When controlling for factors such as race, gender, city, sector, and occupation, there was a significant difference when it came to callbacks based on education. The study found that a college degree was used as a “signal” for implicit qualities and earned skills regardless of AmeriCorps experience. The likelihood of getting a callback for a job was a slightly higher if a resume listing national service also listed a high school and college degree.

For the supplemental study, the researchers’ survey found employers held two prevailing perceptions for why people pursued AmeriCorps: 1) “they genuinely want to help others, learn about causes and communities, and grow as a leader;” and 2) “they are young and recent college graduates who think it’s good to give back to the community.” In addition, the study found that:

  • A college degree was very important to most employers.
  • Employers have a preference toward “somebody they don’t have to train.”
  • If hiring managers were familiar with AmeriCorps, it stood out to them.

Finally, the resume experiment with the Employers of National Service Network showed differential callback rates: 17 percent of resumes listing service received callbacks, compared to only 8 percent of resumes with no service.

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University of Texas at Austin

Can social media and other digital media data be used to measure subjective well-being?

Principal Investigator: Dr. Pamela Paxton

University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) is a public research university and major center for academic research. Home to more than 51,000 students and 3,000 teaching faculty, UT Austin is one of the top 20 public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Through its 2015 National Service and Civic Engagement Research Competition grant, UT Austin used the Confirmatory Factor Analysis measurement technique to create a new multiple-indicator, county-level measure of social capital. Then, using cross-lagged panel models, researchers are relating aspects of social capital and community engagement to various outcomes such as well-being and self-reported health. As a result of this research, UT Austin has drafted several papers to evaluate declines in social capital, explore connections between nonprofits and engagement, and investigate how the presence of AmeriCorps programs affects measures of subjective well-being.

Results show that both nonprofits and national service programs improve community subjective well-being and that there is an interdependent relationship between national service programs and subjective well-being. The team also used data from the 2008-2013 CPS Civic Engagement supplement to test recent trends in associated social capital. The findings suggest that associated social capital does not seem to be declining over time; however, there was a nonlinear decrease during the Great Recession.

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Planning Grants

2017 Cohort, AmeriCorps State and National Evidence Based Intervention Planning Grants

In 2017, AmeriCorps awarded AmeriCorps State and National Evidence Based Intervention planning grants to seven organizations developing new national service models that seek to integrate AmeriCorps members in innovative ways into evidence-based interventions.

Antioch University

How do we create better education and job pathways in health and science fields for low-income Job Corps participants?

Antioch University is a source of innovation in post-secondary education, serving students around the world and across the country, online, and from its five campuses. Antioch University creates and offers industry-recognized certifications that are stackable, portable, and in some cases, transferable to college credit.

Through its 2017 AmeriCorps State and National Evidence-based Intervention Planning grant, Antioch University is exploring a program that creates pathways for further education and job prospects related to the health and science fields. One specific program looks at the impact of insect vector-borne diseases nationwide, and how participants can make a difference in preventing Zika virus outbreaks. By partnering with Job Corps, Antioch University’s AmeriCorps program gains access to a wide pool of potential members from the separate program. In return, Antioch University’s curriculum and post-secondary instructional services help students stay committed to the Job Corps program and receive the full benefits.

In developing the program model, Antioch University reviewed Job Corps objectives and reports, and met with students, center operators, and government representatives. Initial research into the program revealed an effective model, but with challenges such as the need for participants to gain more real world experience; also, the need to continue for more months in the program to gain better credentials and certifications required for post-secondary education or the attainment of jobs that pay a living wage. The university, Job Corps and partners will help address these challenges and improve student outcomes.

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Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness

How can organizations provide timely and effective assistance to homeless populations?

Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness (ARCH) fights to end homelessness in Northeast Tennessee by coordinating and empowering the efforts of diverse charities, civic organizations, nonprofits, and public institutions working to address homelessness. The coalition provides a variety of services to those organizations, including technical assistance, consulting, program evaluation, homeless management information systems, education, and public awareness advocacy.
ARCH received a 2017 AmeriCorps State and National Evidence-based Intervention Planning grant to develop an evidence-based national service program featuring AmeriCorps members. Through its grant, ARCH will implement a coordinated entry system to help comply with the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Housing First mandate. ARCH will utilize AmeriCorps members to provide services to homeless and economically disadvantaged populations, thereby offering access points in various Tennessee counties to serve those populations.

ARCH’s program will have a method for assessing homeless clients to provide a pipeline for its coordinated entry housing services. Coordinated entry helps communities prioritize assistance based on vulnerability and severity of service needs to ensure that people who need assistance the most receive it in a timely manner. Meanwhile, HUD’s Housing First Mandate aims to quickly and successfully connect individuals and families experiencing homelessness to permanent housing without preconditions that can introduce barriers to entry, such as sobriety, treatment, or service participation requirements.
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Artesian Schools, Inc.

How can schools with limited wraparound support provide the personalized guidance to help students succeed?

Artesian Schools, Inc. is a charter management organization focused on filling gaps in K-12 education. Its newest school, Southwest Early College High School (SECHS), offers a new model to the Memphis area, through which students can graduate from high school with a college-level associate degree to provide a leg up as they pursue further higher education or employment.

Through its 2017 AmeriCorps State and National Evidence-based Intervention Planning grant, Artesian is implementing a comprehensive student support program at SECHS, modeled after a federal program called Talent Search, which is designed to provide high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds with mentors and tutors to aid in academic, career, and financial counseling. Each student receives individualized attention in areas critical to college attendance and persistence, which fills a critical need that a school counselor does not have the capacity to address alone with a caseload of up to 400 students. Artesian will leverage AmeriCorps members so that mentors and tutors will be at the school every day.

Before choosing the Talent Search model, Artesian conducted research and conversations to reveal best practices and blueprints on the model that it could use for implementing its program. Artesian is now incorporating aspects of the Talent Search model into SECHS, as well as evaluating its performance.

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Association of Clinicians for the Underserved

How can healthcare organizations attract clinicians to underserviced communities without sacrificing quality of care?

Founded by alumni of the federal National Health Service Corps, the Association of Clinicians for the Underserved (ACU) is committed to educating, encouraging, and enabling healthcare providers of all backgrounds to practice in underserved communities across the country. The organization engages providers early in their clinical careers, helping to place them in safety net organizations that then provide guidance and experience, while simultaneously serving those communities in need.

ACU is using its 2017 AmeriCorps State and National Evidence-based Intervention Planning grant to create an AmeriCorps program where members will be trained as patient “connectors” to provide patient-centered interventions such as case management assistance with coverage enrollment, accessing primary care services, and awareness/effective utilization of health care resources across the respective individual’s continuum of care. The program will help further expand ACU’s work training and engaging motivated people to learn about these critical safety net organizations, thus driving more workers and clinicians to serve in Health Professional Shortage Areas.

ACU plans to use pre- and post-service surveys at its initial service sites to collect member data, along with other methods of tracking participation throughout the service period. While the start of the program will be limited in scope, once ACU evaluates the program, it can then look toward using the program as the foundation for growth and future opportunities with a wider range of partners.

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Campus Compact of the Mountain West

Is there a way to create opportunities for civic engagement connected to student learning from early to higher education?

For years, Campus Compact of the Mountain West (CCMW) has collaborated with the Civic Health Network to develop a strategy for civic learning and engagement – also thought of as citizen involvement – from kindergarten through higher education (K2H).

Using their 2017 AmeriCorps State and National Evidence-based Intervention Planning grant, CCMW will convene education teams across the Mountain West to apply national service resources to the development of civic learning and engagement pipelines from kindergarten through higher education. These education teams will be comprised of AmeriCorps members, K-12 teachers and administrators, higher education faculty, and community partners who will choose from various evidence-based models of civic learning and engagement for implementation or expansion.

The strategy strengthens partnerships between K-12 and higher education systems, expanding and deepening opportunities for students to become involved in their communities as part of their educational experience and assessing the effects of that engagement throughout their education careers. CCMW’s community-based, team-centered strategy is critical to the successful development and implementation of its school-based programs. This approach enables CCMW to assess impacts across a small number of vetted civic learning and engagement programs to determine which intervention best fits the unique needs of each school to achieve the desired results.

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Children’s Forum

How can communities become more connected and engaged to support children for lifelong success?

The Children’s Forum (the Forum) has a simple and impactful vision: to create connected and engaged communities that support children for life-long success. The Forum works to influence young children’s early learning skills while also building and diversifying the early learning workforce.

Through workforce studies and other research in the field of early learning, the Forum identified the need for safe and high-quality educational environments for young children. This need not only includes reaching children in high-need populations, but also extends to gaps within the workforce that cares for and educates young children. Several years ago, the Forum received a federal grant to implement a relationship-based coaching model. The success of their experiences with this model informed the Forum’s decision to continue exploring it, while also incorporating best practices from literature on early learning.

Now, the Forum is using its 2017 AmeriCorps State and National Evidence-based Intervention Planning grant to plan an implementation model for providing evidence-based interventions to young children and support early learning classroom teachers through a relationship-based coaching model.

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The National Reentry Network for Returning Citizens

How can society ensure citizens returning from incarceration successfully reintegrate with their communities?

Since 2010, the National Reentry Network for Returning Citizens (the Network) has worked to build a strong, national network of citizens returning from incarceration who support each other’s successful reintegration into their communities. The organization also advocates for policy reforms that promote restorative practices and reductions in incarceration.

While Washington, D.C., has a number of programs that work with juveniles returning to the community from incarceration, there is very little support for adults. Many return to society facing fines, child support, and other head of household responsibilities. The Network is using its 2017 AmeriCorps State and National Evidence-based Intervention Planning grant to implement the wraparound services of the Boston Reentry Initiative (BRI) by offering coaching and social support as returning citizens seek driver’s licenses/identification, health insurance, shelter, and transportation; to name a few. The Network’s introduction of AmeriCorps members as peer mentors is unique to the existing BRI model – this will allow citizens returning from incarceration the opportunity to learn skills as AmeriCorps members, assist returning citizens with obtaining tangible outcomes, and provide additional support, all while providing a valuable service to Washington, D.C.

As the Network implements this program, it will use its planning grant to effectively recruit, screen, train, and supervise the evaluation of the AmeriCorps members serving as peer mentors. The grant will also support efforts to establish strong partnerships with the Bureau of Prisons and the Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizens Affairs in order to provide a cooperative continuum of care. Finally, the grant will allow the Network to work with an evaluation expert, prioritizing data collection methods and measurable outcomes.

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