In today’s individualistic and polarized socio-political landscape, public service may not be on everyone’s lips. But two research centers at UC Berkeley are hoping to reverse that, thanks to a $750,000 grant from California Volunteers, a state agency tasked with recruiting young Californians into public service.
The grant was awarded this week through the Connecting Californians through Service program as part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s #CaliforniansForAll initiative, launched in 2020 to help those people and organizations hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic to bring together those who need volunteers.
“As a veteran, I know the power of service to bring people together. With this new partnership, we will develop training and tools to study and improve these connections,” said Josh Fryday, California Chief Service Officer.
Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and Othering & Belonging Institute have been awarded funding to develop and implement a training program for volunteers at various nonprofit organizations to bridge differences between them and the communities they serve and address some of their most pressing challenges of the state to accept.
“Across the United States, a public-interest focus is at risk, undermined by self-centered digital platforms, divisive political rhetoric and disinformation, and an epidemic of loneliness,” said Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at Berkeley and one of the faculty’s founders Greater Good Science Center and an expert in the science of emotions. “Nevertheless, our research has consistently found that serving others promotes mental and physical health and helps develop a sense of purpose.”
Alongside Keltner, Berkeley faculty will shape the curriculum of the training program, including law professor John Powell, director of the Othering & Belonging Institute and professor of African American and Ethnic Studies, and psychology professor Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, an expert on stigma and bias.
The curriculum aims to reduce polarisation, division and exclusion in society and helps volunteers develop important interpersonal skills such as: B. Techniques for really listening to other people’s points of view and solving conflicts constructively. Service program leaders will explore how to bring people from different backgrounds together in ways that will encourage them to develop stronger social bonds.
To evaluate the curriculum, Greater Good Science Center researchers will chart how the program benefits volunteers to develop an adaptable approach that could ultimately be used by other service programs.
“There is no greater challenge for us today than our growing alienation from one another. That’s why I’m so proud to be a part of this important new partnership,” said Powell. “California Volunteers’ visionary support will undoubtedly transform the field of public service for years to come, enabling us to develop practical, evidence-based tools and scalable solutions that can help us build a California where everyone belongs. “
For more information on the grantees, visit the Greater Good Science Center and the Othering & Belonging Institute.