Bridging Divides

Service years bring people together across lines of difference through a shared experience that builds cultural competency and civic engagement, and strengthens social cohesion in America.

America desperately needs to invest in experiences that build empathy and understanding among youth; bridge-building skills are critical to our nation’s capacity to survive deepening polarization and distrust. The national service ecosystem can be a formidable actor in this work, as service years have the potential to develop the next generation of empathetic civic leaders. Service year alums leave their service as more engaged citizens who are more likely to vote, get involved in their community, and feel confident about working with their peers to solve challenges.

Service Years Fuel Civic Renewal
  • 8 out of 10 AmeriCorps alums are, or plan to become, actively involved in their community post-service
  • YouthBuild increases social trust and community orientation among the low-income youth who serve in the program.
  • AmeriCorps, YouthBuild, and Peace Corps alumni vote and volunteer throughout their lives at higher rates than their peers.

Service Years + Bridging

In 2020-2021 Service Year Alliance, with support from the Einhorn Collaborative, conducted a field scan and analysis to understand the impact of service years in developing bridge-building skills in corps members. The resulting report indicated that there was a strong belief among service year program staff that their programs tangentially engage in bridging work, and that their corps members are gaining skills and behaviors associated with bridging divides, but that additional support was needed  to more fully understand and intentionally engage in explicit bridge-building practices. 

Bridging Divides: coming together across divides to listen and understand each other, to find common ground, build relationships, and to make collaboration the norm.

As a result of these initial findings, the Einhorn Collaborative allocated additional support to enable Service Year Alliance to create the first collaborative community of practice around national service and bridging. This multi-year effort has the goal of significantly expanding the number of young people who develop bridge-building skills over the course of a service year. 

In June 2023, Service Year Alliance and the AmeriCorps agency announced a partnership to better support AmeriCorps programs across the country in developing AmeriCorps members as life-long bridgers. 

This partnership buoyed our efforts to cultivate a first-of-its-kind community of practice and advisory group of AmeriCorps programs, state service commissions, and leaders in the bridging and democracy-building sector to examine, create, test, measure, and spread effective practices and interventions that best equip corps members with the skills and motivations to bridge divides in our society.

We are grateful to the members of our Community of Practice and Advisory Group:

Community of Practice

  • AmeriCorps Viriginia
  • Campus Compact 
  • City Year
  • CivicWell
  • Communities in Schools - San Antonio
  • Community Mediation Maryland
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Interfaith Enrichment Corps 
  • Lead for America
  • Move for America
  • Public Health Works (ACS)
  • Repair the World 
  • SBP Inc.
  • SCI Social Capital Inc.
  • W. Virginia Community Development HUB
  • The Service Collaborative of Western New York
  • Upstate Greenways & Trails Alliance
  • United Way Association of South Carolina
  • UServeUtah

Advisory Group

  • AmeriCorps
  • America’s Service Commissions
  • Bridge USA
  • Civic Health Project 
  • CoGenerate
  • Interfaith America
  • Dr. Allison Briscoe-Smith of the Greater Good Science Center
  • Dr. Linda Tropp from the University of Massachusetts

With our partners, we will bring the right resources, perspectives, and practices to the table to inform the national service ecosystem and support the development of life-long bridgers. 


Error in tag 'tag' - No such tag slug bridging_divides
Addressing Local Needs in Your Community
Bridging Divides
Our Vision