Updated: Jan 14, 2022
Imagine a system that rewards civic volunteerism and encourages more Chicagoans to work side-by-side in improving the quality of life and overall resiliency of Chicago. Think of the resources- tuition vouchers, transit passes, hiring preferences, and simple recognition- that city and state government could leverage to make volunteering worthwhile for more people than those that are privileged enough to do so. Imagine the things Chicago could do with a trained and motivated corps of volunteers.
If we pay people to volunteer, then it wouldn’t feel like or be perceived as volunteering. But if we reward them with non-cash benefits it’s more of an honorarium. Furthermore, if those benefits are transferable to others, it maintains a sense of virtue and becomes more valuable to those doing the volunteering. If a retiree on fixed income could volunteer once a week for a year and transfer to their grandchild a 20% tuition discount for state or community college, wouldn’t that be a meaningful reward?
What kind of projects could we undertake with a skilled volunteer corps? Imagine being able to open up all the neighborhood schools in the evening so kids (and adults!) could play basketball or ping pong or chess? Imagine having volunteer transit ambassadors to help improve the sense of safety throughout the transit system. Or, how about volunteer land stewards to improve and protect the natural areas throughout the city?