Through National Service, CivicSpark contributes to a more resilient and just California by:
- Building local government capacity to address entrenched and emerging issues;
- Serving as a social purpose career accelerator for future leaders; and
- Fostering lasting, authentic community engagement.
We envision a California of vibrant communities where our local governments and leaders are empowered and equipped to proactively serve the needs of all community members.
What is CivicSpark?
CivicSpark is a Governor’s Initiative AmeriCorps program dedicated to building capacity for local governments to address community resilience issues such as: climate change, water resource management, and access to opportunities. Each year, CivicSpark recruits 90 Fellows, who serve with local governments for 11 months. In collaboration with local government staff, CivicSpark Fellows implement a needed sustainability project, while also building long-term capacity to ensure the work is sustained after their service year is completed.
Local governments get dedicated project support from a focused team of enthusiastic emerging professionals who receive specialized professional development and sector training. Local benefits include:
- Direct support for specific climate and water project needs with defined outcomes.
- Increased capacity for sustainable communities and response to climate change/water resource needs.
- A pipeline for future sustainability efforts.
- Stronger State-local partnerships for information and expertise exchange.
- A workforce with local expertise in climate change, energy, water, and sustainability.
- Access to affordable resources, resulting in increased capacity and hands-on training.
- Increased volunteerism at the local level.
How does it work?
The CivicSpark Program offers a unique opportunity for recent college graduates to gain valuable experience in the sustainability field, gain professional and technical skills, and have a strong statewide network of professionals, all while having a lasting impact on communities. Fellows implement critical projects across California on a wide range of topics, including: water resources and policy, climate adaptation and mitigation, affordable housing, and rural broadband. The program offers three thematic tracks: Climate (50 Fellows), Water (20 Fellows), and Opportunity Access (20 Fellows).
Sample CivicSpark Projects
- Educating community members about climate change.
- Benchmarking commercial building energy use.
- Conducting electric vehicle readiness planning.
- Inventorying greenhouse gas emissions.
- Conducting a water needs assessment of underserved communities.
- Implementing green infrastructure projects.
- Educating local leaders about watershed management.
- Developing groundwater sustainability plans.
Opportunity Access Track
- Providing technical assistance for affordable housing programs.
- Supporting expansion of bicycle/pedestrian programs in communities.
- Supporting development of a community broadband roadmap.
- Identifying local barriers to affordable housing.
All Fellows will spend at least 1,700 hours over the 11 months of the service year serving full time with their project partners. The regions being served by CivicSpark include: Central Coast, Greater Los Angeles, North Coast, Sacramento, San Francisco Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley, and Sierra Nevada. CivicSpark Fellows provide capacity-building support to local governments while simultaneously supporting volunteer engagement. This approach offers a unique opportunity to accelerate local community resilience efforts.
CivicSpark partners provide project oversight and professional development support, which includes identifying a supervisor who will help the Fellows set professional goals. An LGC Regional Coordinator conducts monthly Fellows trainings and acts as a local liaison to the partner.
Our Theory of Change
In order for California to meet its ambitious climate change goals and to prevent significant, negative impacts on California’s economy and environment, local governments—recognized by the state as critical to these goals—need expanded capacity (in terms of new program development, stakeholder engagement, and enhanced staff skills and expertise) to manage the new research, planning, and implementation tasks required.
Additionally, the unprecedented severity and impact of California’s latest drought illustrates the fact that water is a preeminent asset to our state’s viability. Land use planning, groundwater management, flood mitigation, and watershed health must be addressed from an integrated approach for California to be resilient against future impacts to one of our most valuable resources.
Finally, California’s prosperity over the last decade has not been evenly spread. Many communities face challenges that place them at a competitive disadvantage including lack of affordable housing, limited broadband, and inaccessible transportation options. All of these conditions are limiting access to opportunities for better jobs, enhanced education, economic prosperity, and more robust health care.
CivicSpark AmeriCorps Fellows working with local governments to implement targeted research, planning, or implementation projects, while simultaneously supporting volunteer engagement, offer a unique way to accelerate local government climate, water, and opportunity access action efforts while contributing to our collective response to these pressing problems.
This model of change leverages the strengths of the AmeriCorps service model to support climate, water, and opportunity capacity building for local governments by providing beneficiaries with: (1) tangible products (research reports, plans, demonstration projects), which provide stakeholders and staff with concrete actionable information and resources they need to move forward on their own; (2) opportunities to engage new and critical stakeholders (including volunteers) into climate and water initiatives, so their efforts have the support that is needed to continue to grow; and (3) direct experience working with the new tools, methods and resources they need to integrate climate and water management concerns into existing skills and responsibilities.
In the longer-term, CivicSpark Fellows contribute to a more effective community and State climate, water, and access to opportunity response by building regional networks that enable economies of scale in response, creating a statewide platform to disseminate more effective response strategies and resources, and strengthening linkages between state and local governments in order to better align state and local efforts.