In concert with the unveiling of President Barack Obama’s United We Serve act, which calls on all Americans to serve their country this summer, came the rollout of the serve.gov and the “Obama-inspired” All for Good Web sites.
According to the Corporation for National & Community Service Web site, the government department that will be responsible for the new initiative, the President is asking Americans to identify needs in their communities and “engage in meaningful service to create change—and stay engaged with those projects long after September (when the initiative ends).”
Stressing the need for Americans to participate in the country’s economic recovery, Obama said: “Economic recovery is as much about what you’re doing in your communities as what we’re doing in Washington—and it’s going to take all of us, working together.” Serve.gov allows people looking for service opportunities to come up with their own service opportunity or to organize suggested projects such as a building a community garden or organizing a book drive. By using toolkits on the site, community members can get step-by-step suggestions for implementing their projects, such as identifying local partners and building a team. Users can then register their projects so that other people in their community can join the project.
Serve.gov users also links to All for Good, a volunteer opportunity search engine that has been touted by the president as a “Craigslist for service.” According to the All For Good site, users can “browse activities and find events based on your location and interests.” A Chronicle of Philanthropy article about All for Good says that the site “will gather in one place a wide spectrum of information about volunteer positions and events nationwide, using open-source technology so that groups can use the computer code to package the data in different ways.”
According to the Chronicle article, the All for Good site has been a high-profile project—it was founded by Jonathan Greenblatt, the co-founder of Ethos water, and Sonal Shah, former head of global development at Google.org who is now the head of the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation. Google powers the All for Good Site, and it received support from people like Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist.org, and Arianna Huffington.
Despite the support, it has also been criticized by the founders of similar search engines and databases that pair volunteers with volunteer opportunities, such as Social Actions, who say that their sites were ready to handle the influx of volunteers the United We Serve act will generate and that a new site wasn’t necessary. Others cite the argument that this new initiative puts pressure on groups to participate to help carry out Obama’s agenda, an agenda that they might not necessarily support.