This post is by Tracy Hoover, Points of Light’s CEO.
Just a week before the first presidential debate, Points of Light gathered a group together for our own version of an “ideas-that-matter conference” in Kennebunkport, Maine. Members of our Advisory Board, the Board of Directors and a few invited guests – corporate partners, foundation leaders, policy experts, artists and filmmakers – shared their insights and input on the future of our movement and how to enact the greatest amount of change possible, for as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.
As the political season kicks into high gear, the timing couldn’t have been better as we are all thinking about how to fill the vacuum we’ll see when half of the electorate is disappointed with the election results – no matter who wins. How can we try to turn that disappointment and cynicism into optimism and civic engagement?
Our exploration for answers to this question started by digging into the critical work taking place at the Miller Center – a nonpartisan affiliate of the University of Virginia. It’s called the First Year 2017 Project and it’s meant to advise our next president – regardless of who wins the election – on reaching common ground throughout the first year of the next administration by learning from the successes and failures of past White Houses. What struck all of us was the preview of one of the project’s upcoming essays about the ongoing transformation of the ways in which people communicate. Mary Kate Cary, a former White House speechwriter to President George H.W. Bush who is advising the First Year 2017 Project on communications strategy (check out her communications research publishing this month), along with experts from Google and LinkedIn talked about these rapid changes and the implications not only for the next president but for our sector – for changemakers who are catalysts for civic change.
Two such changemakers were part of our ideas fest. Jimmy Wayne is a former foster child turned country music singer/songwriter whose songs, story, and walk halfway across America in 2010 continue to help create awareness of kids who age out of the foster care system and become homeless. We were honored to name Jimmy as our Daily Point of Light honoree #5820 while we were with him. Social impact filmmaker Erin Bernhardt shared insights she gained while making her award-winning documentary film, “Imba Means Sing,” about the African Children’s Choir. Listening to both Jimmy and Erin brought home to me the treasure of stories Points of Light has as one of its biggest assets – authentic, credible stories about real Americans making a difference in the lives of others.
As we wrapped up our time together, we returned to that initial question: after the election, how can we try to turn disappointment and cynicism into optimism and civic engagement? Between Jimmy and Erin’s inspirational stories and Mary Kate’s insights we recognized we already had the answer. Regardless of which candidate they vote for – and whether they are happy or disappointed with the election outcome – we want everyone who cares about building a better America to roll up their sleeves. We want to lift up their powerful stories of change. And we want to tap into the unlimited potential of social networks to connect us to each other to tackle tough problems, and unite us in a way that transcends party politics.
Let’s start now by sharing those stories now at #ServiceUnites.