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PubPol 475-002

PubPol 475-002: Topics in Public Policy: Volunteerism

Fall 2006
3:03-3:03 pm EST
Credit Hours

Americans volunteer - at least they purport and aspire to. From de Tocqueville to Obama, volunteerism has always been a central, evolving part of the American identity. We perform community service through non-profit organizations, government programs, schools, businesses, faith-based initiatives - even the penal system. We have put a lot of stock in volunteerism as an engine for positive social change and we derive a strong sense of optimism from community service, but it is not always clear whether the rhetoric resembles the reality. Does community service produce stronger, safer, healthier people and communities or, instead, college essays, corporate newsletters and political photo opportunities? Or some symbiotic combination of the two? Volunteerism is ripe with policy influences and implications. The public, private and non-profit sectors collide on volunteer sites. Volunteers promise to be front and center as public budgets get squeezed, communities seek creative solutions, schools explore service learning and businesses try to brand themselves as socially conscious. But more service does not guarantee better service; indeed, there may be unintended consequences to the accelerated mobilization of volunteers. Whatever the case, public policies - or, in many cases, lack there of - are a dynamic part of this complex service landscape. This seminar-style course will draw heavily from students' volunteer experiences and include guest speakers, field trips and a project to assess the volunteer capacity of area nonprofit organizations. To be taught in Fall 2011 by Ben Falik. Ben Falik is the founder and Chief Whatever Officer of Summer in the City. He is a 2009 alum of the Ford School and Michigan Law. When he was at Michigan, Ben was on the board of the Ginsberg Center and Michigan Campus Compact. As an urban studies undergraduate at Columbia University, Ben was the food editor for the Spectator, the hooker for the Rugby team - and wrote an honors thesis on Focus: HOPE in Detroit. Ben lives with his wife, two small children and large dog in Huntington Woods, where he is the city's representative to the Millennial Mayors Congress. He is a community correspondent for Street Beat on the CW50 and a columnist for the Detroit Jewish News.