“[FUSE] illustrates the creativity and energy with which much of civic-level America in responding to a medical and economic emergency unprecedented in our lifetimes.”
– James Fallows, The Atlantic
“…Right at this moment, most of what’s positive in the country is happening at the local, statewide, and regional level—rather than that of national guidance or coordination. Not as a substitute for national policy, but as a guide and spur for it, these efforts deserve attention. Recently, Deb Fallows wrote about how libraries are expanding their virtual reach, now that their physical spaces are closed down. And I described how the most populous state, California, is trying to reorient its citizen-service program, for the era when people cannot easily gather in groups.
Today’s update is the first of three about small-to-medium-size organizations, all relatively new, which are rapidly adapting to match the emergencies of this moment. Each of them had developed a system of networked projects across the country. Each emphasized the idea that Americans of different generations and backgrounds were looking for more than strictly material rewards and could be drawn to opportunities to serve. Each was based on innovative ways of matching business operations with efforts from governments and nonprofit groups. Each has now had to shift its emphasis during the pandemic. They are FUSE Corps, NationSwell, and the Innovation Collective. We start today with FUSE.
What it does: FUSE is a nonprofit organization, with offices in San Francisco and Boston, that applies what I think of as an improved version of the familiar Peace Corps or Teach for America models. (By the way, FUSE isn’t an acronym; it’s their preferred capitalization, for the concept that their programs would fuse together contributions from diverse realms.)
The familiar-sounding part of the FUSE approach is placing people who want to serve in locations that need a particular kind of help. Among the differences is FUSE’s emphasis on choosing “executive fellows” who, in additional to idealism and willingness to serve, have long-established, specific experience relevant to the projects to which they will be assigned. To spell this out: Teach for America takes fresh college graduates and gives them crash-course training in classroom techniques. FUSE takes experienced, usually mid-career professionals and matches them with local-government projects that call on their skills.”