Learning Cohorts

Service Year Alliance is bringing together leaders from states, communities, and service year programs that are leveraging service years to respond to community needs and addressing challenges facing the service year field. Currently, we are leading the following learning cohorts: 

Shared Recruitment Learning Cohort

With support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Service Year Alliance, in March 2022, launched a learning cohort with five Impact Communities. The learning cohort focused on shared recruitment strategies and engaged each Impact Community’s shared recruiter — the person who focuses on recruitment for a portfolio of programs in a specific community. While this model is funded and structured differently in each community, the shared recruiter is at least a part-time staff member whose focus is building-up the recruitment pipeline for programs across the Impact Community.

The primary goal of the cohort was to define local shared recruitment roles and strategies that can enable communities to successfully recruit more local corps members that reflect the communities where they are serving. For participating communities advancing shared recruitment efforts, this was also a space to share ideas, learnings, and challenges in doing this work as they updated their approaches and recruitment plans heading into the 2023 recruitment cycle. In October 2022, participating communities shared their community recruitment plans with each other and with other Impact Communities that were interested in beginning shared recruitment work. 

Key learnings from this work include:

  • The importance of having a dedicated role—whether staff or consultant—for leading recruitment planning and strategy in communities 
  • The need for complete and timely access to key recruitment data in the network
  • Having intentional training and support for program staff that are leading recruitment efforts
  • Providing consistent space for continued buy-in, input, and collaboration from participating programs in the collaborative
  • The importance of having shared language, messaging, and tactics—such as a common application/landing page—to promote service years locally. 

Based on learnings that came out of this cohort, Service Year Alliance provided subgrants during the 2023 recruitment cycle to support efforts in three communities to advance efforts relating to accessing and obtaining shared data, utilizing a consistent common application across programs in a regional network, and incentivizing and uplifting corps member and alum voices to build more pipelines into service years. 

The following Impact Communities participated in the Shared Recruitment Learning Cohort:


Climate Cohort

From installing renewable energy systems to restoring watersheds to supporting disaster resilience efforts and more, the national service field is well positioned to provide solutions to climate change and train the next generation of climate leaders. Over a year-and a half,Service Year Alliance convened and supported a small group of programs to understand the models, challenges, and opportunities in utilizing national service in support of the climate and workforce development fields.

Cohort organizations included:

  • Ampact's Climate Impact Corps
  • Mile High Youth Corps
  • Green Iowa AmeriCorps
  • Rural Action AmeriCorps
  • CivicWell 
  • Rare AmeriCorps
  • Sustainability Institute
  • PowerCorps PHL

As a result of this work, Service Year Alliance released a Climate & Environmental Resilience Guide as well as a series of free service year program model roadmaps that can be leveraged to assist in creating, expanding, and enhancing programming in the following three areas: Energy Efficiency, Community Capacity Building, and Rural Resilience.

Explore the Climate & Environmental Resilience Guide

High School Transitions Learning Cohort

With support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Service Year Alliance launched a High School Transitions Learning Cohort with eight service year programs focused on increasing the number and quality of service year positions that offer recent high school graduates a strong postsecondary transition pathway.  

At the beginning of this project, the service year field was largely hesitant to engage high school graduates in service years and many Cohort participants struggled to provide ideal, quality service year experiences for their corps members. Through the development of the Quality Definition and Quality Continuum — and with the guidance of external stakeholders and partners, as well as the perspectives of high school graduates themselves — Cohort programs were able to make progress in areas of highest priority for their organization. 

This work made clear that prioritizing corps member training and development and providing specific support and resources for corps members is critical for service year programs to recruit and engage individuals after high school in a service year. These strategies not only help programs to strengthen their candidate pool, but also increase the likelihood that programs successfully retain those corps members throughout the full year of service, while enhancing the ability to achieve your service intervention and creating a stronger experience that puts corps members on a pathway to success in post-service career and education opportunities. 

As your program utilizes the Quality Continuum and aims to improve upon various quality indicators to better recruit, engage, and support individuals after high school, Service Year Alliance encourages you to also explore and adopt its Corps Member Curriculum: Strengthening Service Years as a Postsecondary Option.

Explore the Curriculum

We are grateful to to these organizations for their partnership in this work: 

  • American Youthworks, Austin, TX
  • Cherry Health, Grand Rapids, MI
  • City Year, National 
  • CivicWorks, Baltimore, MD
  • GRID Alternatives, National
  • Improve Your Tomorrow, Stockton, CA
  • Partners for Education at Berea College, Berea, KY 
  • Serve Philadelphia VISTA Program, Philadelphia, PA

Postsecondary Pathways Cohort 

In March 2023, we launched our Postsecondary Pathways Learning Cohort to explore practices for improving the value proposition of service years by providing intentional professional development, such as college credit, credentials, and industry-recognized certifications. We know that service years offer transformational experiences for individuals as they serve their communities, and with the historic recruitment challenges of the last two years, a decrease in college enrollment rates, and an increase in employer needs, service years are poised to meet the needs of individuals with a high school credential, as well as future employers.

Over the next year, the cohort will work to:

  • Ensure service year programming provides a value-add to corps members by providing a clear professional development component.
  • Develop partnerships and pipelines that increase the number of corps members with a high school credential.

Together, we’ll explore how these efforts impact the corps member experience. We’ll examine successes and challenges in program implementation, including what capacity it takes to create these pipelines and pathways and the impact on corps member recruitment and retention. 

We’re excited to be working with these cohort participants:

Contact Tracing 

With generous support from Cisco, Service Year Alliance convened a COVID-19 Response and Recovery learning cohort from May 2020 through September 2021 that included representatives from state service commissions and service year programs that led these efforts to utilize service year corps members to support the public health response to COVID-19. The primary goals of this cohort were to lift up local learnings, collectively work through challenges and barriers, and to document the different models that came together to have service year corps members support the response to public health needs. While the cohort had an initial focus on utilizing service year corps members for contact tracing for much of 2020, as community needs shifted during the pandemic — particularly as COVID-19 vaccines started to become available — the group also expanded in 2021 to include new participants and took on an expanded focus on programming related to vaccine distribution and equity.

You can review our white paper — Service Years as a Strategy for Adapting to Emergent Community Needs: A COVID-19 Response & Recovery Case Study that shares examples, insights, and learnings that came out of this learning cohort, as well as relevant examples from elsewhere nationally, to demonstrate how national service was utilized to help scale the public health response to COVID-19.


Rapid Response Learning Cohort
Learning Cohorts
Our Vision