The “so what?” of our service

On one Thursday of each month, City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley Executive Director Beach Pace will write a featured blog post.

This month,  Beach reflects on why its important to celebrate successes but also remember that there is always room for improvement.

In my previous blog entries I have written about service and it being an act of love.  Also,  I have hopefully started a conversation about how we should own our experience here on earth and “be the pilot” of our work and intentions.

Another important aspect of service are the metrics or measurements of our work.  I heard Michelle Obama speak two years ago in San Francisco at the National Conference of Service and Volunteering. Her main points were that service was important to our nation, that it was essential (not just nice to have)  and that it could help solve significant issues. However, the point that resonated most with the crowd in the conference hall was the importance of metrics on service.

People cheered from the audience as she spoke of her experience with nonprofits. Her community based grassroots service was what many of us do literally on the ground and in the communities now.

She talked about how she fought to get grants and support to fund her work and how, every time, she always had to explain what her organization was accomplishing. She had to answer the question: “So, what?” Many people in the audience knew exactly what she was talking about. They had written grants and filled out hundreds of applications for funding so as the First Lady spoke there were calls of “Uh Huh!,” “That’s Right!” and “Me too!”

It is with this reflection and memory that I bring you this blog. The reflection of “so what?”

Each year at City Year we break at mid-year and reflect on our work. We assess how we are moving toward goals.

We are doing well and have met some of our annual goals already. Other goals we have a long way to go and we’ve plans to get there.

We have exceeded our goals so far in applicants to City Year 2011/2012 and we are on track with our development goals, slightly exceeding our mid year marks. Our current corps, on the whole, have felt trained and ready for their work. Our metrics around our work in schools, the thrust of City Year’s work, has had excellent success.

Again, there is room for improvement and we are still striving to meet some goals (in afterschool programing for example) and we have actions in place to execute on those goals.

It is imperative to measure your work and communicate internally and externally how you are doing. It’s critical for people to know how they are doing, how they can improve and why they are investing (time or money).

In her address Michelle Obama said: “Service is a nationwide movement.  Our true calling in life is where our hearts greatest gladness meets the world’s deepest need.  If you are serving…. You have found that place.”

Don’t forget to measure it.

Beach Pace, Executive Director CYSJ


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