President’s Forum Speaker Alan Khazei and his wife Vanessa Kirsch are included in Fortune magazine’s list of “World’s Greatest Leaders: 9 dynamic duos,” released March 20. Khazei, co-founder of City Year and founder of Be the Change, Inc., and Kirsch, founder and managing director of New Profit, are listed alongside other powerful figures in politics, media, philanthropy and business who create change as part of a personal and/or professional partnership. This includes Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly, among others.
“Married couple Kirsch and Khazei have both made their life’s work about engaging young people and improving civic environments,” notes Fortune.
In 2012, Khazei joined the President’s Forum Speaker Series when he spoke about his work pioneering the ways in which citizens can enact change in their country and communities. Earlier in the day, he joined the Centennial Center for Leadership for a special Leadership Café discussion on big citizenship and real leaders. He also offered a workshop to students, staff and community members on the “10 Principles of Action Tanking,” ways in which social change can be enacted within any community.
Khazei graduated from Harvard Law School in 1987, and shortly thereafter co-founded the nonprofit organization City Year, which allows adults ages 17-24 to serve as intensive, full-time community mentors, tutors and educators to children in some of the nation’s most poverty-stricken schools. The program’s success lent it to become the inspiration for President Bill Clinton’s AmeriCorps program and continues to operate in 25 cities – including Johannesburg and London.
According to Fortune, “Kirsch, whose second social entrepreneurial venture also served as a model for AmeriCorps, went on to found a third, New Profit, a non-profit that helps successful social entrepreneurs increase the impact and scale of their organizations.”
When AmeriCorps was faced with dramatic cuts in funding in 2003, Khazei played an instrumental role in the “Save AmeriCorps” effort; due to its success, he was inspired to create Be the Change, Inc. in 2007. Through grassroots efforts and national issue-based campaigns that stress inclusion, collaboration and collective impact, Be the Change works to find solutions to the most pressing issues facing society today.
The campaigns created by Be the Change organize coalitions of nonprofits, social entrepreneurs, policymakers, private sector leaders, academics and concerned citizens to align with common goals effecting the nation as a whole. The organization’s first campaign, ServiceNation, proved to be an integral part in the enactment of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.
In addition to his work with City Year and Be the Change, Inc., Khazei is a prominent board member of many national non-profits. Khazei was named one of America’s “25 Best Leaders” by the US News and World Report in 2006, and his efforts have earned him numerous awards including the Reebok Human Rights Award, the Jefferson Award for Public Service, and the Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur Award.
In 2009, Khazei ran for a seat in the Senate in his home state of Massachusetts, and was endorsed by The Boston Globe, as well as several other state and local newspapers.
He also authored a book, “Big Citizenship: How pragmatic idealism can bring out the best in America,” which President Mark D. Gearan reviewed in an article, “Corps Values,” that appeared in the spring 2011 issue of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas.
“An unstated theme in Big Citizenship is that good intentions aren’t enough. Social entrepreneurs need to be willing to undertake the hard, messy work of politics,” Gearan wrote. “Even as political victories can bolster the service movement, the movement can in turn influence our politics, in a virtuous cycle that can inculcate the spirit of civic engagement in the American public.”
Additionally, the 2012-2013 academic year at HWS was dedicated to the concept of “Big Citizenship.”