Publication Date



Globalization and information-age technology have led to declines in labor market opportunity, especially for youth. In this paper, we suggest a robust emphasis on civic and volunteer service as one promising policy response. Service can promote civic engagement, meaningful roles in society, and work experience, while making substantial contributions to social and economic well-being. The classic historical example is the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) created by President Franklin Roosevelt during the Depression of the 1930s. The CCC was enormously productive and enjoyed strong bipartisan political support. In order to re-create this potential, policies for civic and volunteer service should be designed and implemented. To ensure that all Americans have access to the benefits of service, we recommend a fivefold increase over the next decade in the size of civic service programs such as city and state conservation corps, AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, and other, similar programs. We also recommend expanding inclusive pathways to civic and volunteer service for children and youth in education. As in the past, the social work profession can provide leadership in building these policies. Social workers also have vital roles to play in conducting research to inform more effective policy and practice.

Document Type

Working Paper


Social Innovation Partnerships


Grand Challenges for Social Work

Original Citation

Lough, B. J., Sherraden, M. S., Moore A. M, Sherraden, M., & Pritzker, S. (2017). Productive engagement early in life: Civic and volunteer service as a pathway to development (Grand Challenges for Social Work initiative Working Paper No. 23). Cleveland, OH: American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare.


Grand Challenges for Social Work


Grand Challenges for Social Work, American Academy of Social Work & Social Welfare, civic engagement, volunteer service, volunteerism, social inclusion, social development, social policy