Guest Column: Business, not government, should be behind community service plan

2013-07-09T00:00:00Z Guest Column: Business, not government, should be behind community service planPeter G. Norback Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Business - not money or the government - will solve many of our social ills.

In the past couple of weeks, print and electronic media have been all over the Franklin Project, an initiative dreamed up by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who thinks a one-year community service conscription for our youth would be just ducky. Alan Khazei, the co-founder of City Year, an AmeriCorps national service program, picked up the McChrystal gauntlet and is fostering a one year "rite of passage" service program.

Yikes! Don't they realize Americans don't like to be told what to do?

Since the Vietnam War ended in 1973 and McChrystal graduated from West Point in 1976, he never had to deal with a draftee like me in the military, so I guess the answer to my question is no.

Yes, I was clever in the military - not unlike my early encounters with the nuns - but I was guided by one fact of life: If you mess up and get a dishonorable discharge, things from that point on never go well. And you can kiss goodbye any "climbing the corporate ladder" aspirations you may have had.

Today, corporations, and other major organizations, for that matter, can take that "fact of life" motivator and say, in 2018, require every new hire to have one year of accredited community service under his or her belt. Put the requirement at the top of the application, not the bottom where it is now.

What's the business motivation? Well, it's always preferable to have employees who think about others and their welfare more than those who are disproportionately concerned with how to get the most whenever possible.

Right away, companies with the community-service-oriented staff will notice a marked increase in customer service satisfaction and, on a related subject, a marked decrease in office supplies expenditures. Pads and pencils and such will stop growing legs.

To get this Twenty Eighty Community Service program off the ground (40 hours x 52 weeks = 2,080 hours), all it will take is a few players like Apple, Google, IBM, HP, Exxon, etc., to get in the game. They create an accreditation organization similar to one colleges and universities have and begin registering all nonprofits across the country. Then the service certificate offered by all local nonprofits for volunteer work will be standardized and have a great deal of credibility and value for the volunteers who receive one.

This fact-of-life community service requirement will change America and in the long run make business more stable and profitable. When a well-trained and empathetic staff looks out for the welfare of its company, that company cannot help but become the good corporate citizen it says it is.

And look, no one was conscripted, no underfunded government agency was started, and young people will feel empowered to change the world because more of them understand the meaning of the word empathy.

Peter Norback of Tucson is the founder of the One Can A Week (www.onecanaweek.blogspot.com) program serving the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. Email him at pnorback@cox.net

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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