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The National Conference on Volunteering and Service: Showcasing Innovative Solutions to Community Challenges

by Samantha Jo Warfield

Today is the first official day of the 2011 National Conference on Volunteering and Service. The event brings together volunteer and service leaders from the nonprofit, corporate, and government sectors and is hosted annually by the Corporation for National and Community Service and Points of Light Institute.

Nearly 4,000 “Champions of Service” have convened in New Orleans to learn, connect and be inspired in plenary sessions, workshops, special events, and service projects. This year’s conference is an opportunity to provide tribute to the impact of volunteerism on the revitalization of the city.

“This remarkable city and the entire Gulf coast offer an extraordinary example of the power of citizens to make a difference through service,” said Mark Gearan, chair, Corporation for National and Community Service Board of Directors.

“Gathering in New Orleans underscores the power of people to emerge from disaster and challenge by joining together in action,” said Gearan. “At a time of great social need, service is a critical, cost-effective investment that taps our greatest resource – the energy and ideas of our citizens – to get things done.”

The conference’s location in New Orleans – a city steeped in a strong service history – has brought many big names and high profile speakers to the event.

The opening plenary session will feature a conversation between political consultants James Carville and Mary Matalin about the impact of volunteerism on their hometown, a performance by jazz legend Branford Marsalis and an “only in New Orleans” experience for attendees.

Other highlights for the conference include:

NCVS serves as the final stop on University of Phoenix's six-month Road to the Gulf program. The signature park restoration projects will be held at Sam Bonart Park in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Volunteers will install new playground equipment, repair basketball courts, install sideline benches, build soccer fields, install lighting and beautify the park.

Join us for a discussion framed by retired Admiral Thad Allen on the importance of public participation in the wake of disaster. Admiral Allen will discuss his experience as U.S. Coast Guard Commander during Hurricane Katrina and the 2011 Gulf oil spill. He and Joshua DuBois, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and Karen Baker, California secretary of service and volunteering, will discuss the value of acting now to build resilient communities across the country.

  • National Service General Session, Tuesday, June 7, 10:30 a.m.

Service is central to innovative approaches for solving community and national problems. Melody Barnes, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour will share ideas and highlights of the ground-breaking work being done to address pressing issues by partnering with government, leveraging service and incorporating volunteering to achieve impact throughout the nation.

  • Citizen Solutions for Economic Opportunity, Tuesday, June 7, 2 p.m.

Fostering and advancing economic opportunities in under-resourced communities is a constant challenge. Some communities have found success drawing on existing resources and the power of volunteers. At this session, sponsored by Chase, Diahann Billings-Burford, chief service officer for New York City, David Eisner, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center and MSNBC contributor, and The Grio.com chief correspondent Jeff Johnson will discuss practices of asset-based community development and case studies of successful community programs will be highlighted.

  • Leaders Make the Future: Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World, Tuesday, June 7, 3 p.m.

An interactive conversation, sponsored by UPS and eBay, with a cross-section of leaders about the skills needed to be successful in a world characterized by volatility, complexity and ambiguity. Panelists including Dr. Hal Colston, executive director of the Vermont Commission on National and Community Service, Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO of Teach for America, and Max Stier, president and CEO of Partnership for Public Service will discuss their predictions for the future, the leadership frameworks they work within and how those frameworks lead to lasting impact in communities.

  • Innovate to Educate: Community Solutions for Education Success, Tuesday, June 7, 4 p.m.

This signature conference event, sponsored by Target, will highlight innovative citizen-driven solutions that are helping address the challenges facing America's education system. It will showcase inspiring examples of community-based engagement that have resulted in tangible results for schools and students nationwide. Attendees will hear from featured speaker Soledad O'Brien, award-winning journalist and anchor for CNN's special investigations unit, as well as community leaders who are collectively leading the charge for innovative education solutions.

The NCVS opening plenary session on Monday, June 6, featured civil rights activist Ruby Bridges, a conversation between political consultants James Carville and Mary Matalin, moderated by ABC News correspondent Deborah Roberts, about the impact of service on their hometown of New Orleans, and special performances by Branford Marsalis and The Roots of Music, a music program for New Orleans middle schoolers.

The closing session on Wednesday, June 8, features the presentation of a Presidential Volunteer Service Award to actor and activist Rosario Dawson, performances by Grammy Award-winner Chris Thomas King and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Percy Sledge and the announcement of the 2012 NCVS host city, all hosted by comedian John Oliver from "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."

Learn more about the National Conference on Volunteering and Service or join in the conference from home by watching a live stream.

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