Theory and Vision

The Franklin Project envisions a future in which a year of full-time national service—a service year—is a cultural expectation, a common opportunity, and a civic rite of passage for every young American.

We are leading the effort to improve citizenship by giving every young person in America the opportunity to serve. Some will serve in the military, others will do public service. But everyone should have the opportunity to do at least one year of service sometime between the ages of 18 and 28. The service year would be a fully paid, full-time year of service in one of an array of areas, including health, poverty, conservation, or education. These young people will not only do good work and solve problems, but they will also become better young Americans. 



Why do we think national service is so important?


The problem:

Our country is suffering from a deficit of citizenship and a general lack of connectedness. Fewer Americans are united by common experience than ever before. Young Americans want to step up and serve their communities and country, but we as a society are not providing them with sufficient opportunities to do so. The average ratio of applications to AmeriCorps programs verses available positions is 5 to 1. For some programs, the applicant to acceptance ratio can be 13 to 1 or higher.

Why are we turning away young Americans who want to step up and serve a year?

We face an array of incredible challenges—across a wide range of areas—that are immense, but solvable. With the human capital of a generation of young Americans in service, focusing on challenges here at home, we can make an incredible impact in our communities. 


The Theory of the Franklin Project:

We believe that spending a year in full-time service is a transformative experience for young citizens and future leaders. At some point, every young American, regardless of background, should have the opportunity to be a part of the same team. We’re focused on promoting  a year of service as a civic rite of passage because it will connect individuals to something bigger than themselves and to the idea that citizenship requires more from each of us than is currently expected. A generation of Americans spending a year in full-time service will unleash a reservoir of human capital to tackle pressing social challenges, unite diverse Americans in common purpose, and cultivate the next generation of leaders.


What is a service year?

Every young person should have the opportunity to do a full-time service year as a young adult between the ages of 18 and 28.

  • When doing a service year, young adults receive a modest stipend, and oftentimes scholarships and student debt forbearance.
  • Service should address a community need – such as education, poverty alleviation, food security, etc. – and strengthen the civic ties connecting corps members to each other and their generation at large.
  • Full-time service years need to be integrated into the lives of all young people, and viewed by parents, employers, and community members as an integral part of American life rather than an interruption. 


Here is a two-page pdf flyer that explains the power of a service year and the importance of our work.