This post was originally published here (Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy)
The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) AmeriCorps program offers individuals the opportunity to serve communities and engage with residents while also developing skills that can benefit their future career paths and educational goals. But how do program placement sites and local LISC offices ensure these members have a positive experience and see lasting benefits from their service?
This study, the second consecutive program evaluation of LISC’s AmeriCorps program focuses on the benefits of service to the AmeriCorps members themselves, and how the structure, design and management of the LISC AmeriCorps program contribute to the outcomes that members experience. The key member outcomes include occupational and educational progress, personal efficacy, and civic engagement. The study’s multi-method approach used surveys of members from the 2016-17 program year, surveys of placement site supervisors, semi-structured interviews from local LISC program administrators, and administrative data.
Evaluating Outcomes for LISC AmeriCorps Members
We studied members’ outcomes in four categories: occupational, educational, civic engagement, and personal efficacy.
After exiting the program, seventy-nine percent of LISC AmeriCorps members were satisfied with the professional training that they received on the job, reporting that it was either excellent or good. Most members also reported that the program helped them develop 21st century workforce and management skills. Participation in LISC AmeriCorps had a positive influence on members’ professional goals, career-oriented soft skills, and employment six months post-service. In general, member demographic and preservice characteristics had little to no effect on employment outcomes. Given the diversity of the membership of LISC AmeriCorps, this suggests that that LISC AmeriCorps provides benefits to members with a variety of backgrounds.
Members overwhelmingly reported that participating in LISC AmeriCorps was a worthwhile experience for their educational, professional, and personal goals. Participation in LISC AmeriCorps had a positive influence on members’ education pathways and lives six-months post-service. Overall, there were few strong associations between education outcomes and demographic or other member characteristics at the start of service. However, members who lived in the neighborhood where they served when they enrolled (about two-thirds of all 2016-2017 members) were more likely to report progress in identifying their educational goals.
Civic Engagement and Personal Efficacy Outcomes
Members credited their service in LISC AmeriCorps with increasing their connection to their community and the likelihood they will participate in community organizations, keep informed about news and public events, and volunteer for causes they care about. Participation in LISC AmeriCorps has a positive effect on members’ connection to community, problem-solving techniques, and civic engagement. In addition, nearly all members reported a high appreciation for the benefits of diversity after completing their service; in fact, on average, LISC AmeriCorps members score higher on appreciation for diversity than members of other AmeriCorps programs, after controlling for personal and demographic characteristics.
The LISC AmeriCorps program has seen significant successes in meeting its goals of supporting the career and skills development of its members across demographic groups, and in moving them towards careers in community development. The outcomes here show that the steps highlighted above are the most strongly associated with these outcomes, and if further pursued, are likely to extend these successes more broadly.