“Service In An Age Of Inequality” Public Discussion

WBEZ is a publicly funded radio station that provides a wide array of programs to reflect the diversity of the Chicagoland area. This programming – including news, human interest, and pop culture – helps listeners learn about important community, national, and world issues.


It was a great chance to hear a diverse perspective on service from leaders across the country. I think we often get siloed in our discussions about service in our own subcultures; I enjoyed this rare opportunity!


--"Service in an Age of Inequality" Discussion Participant


Interpreting the poem AND reviewing the statistics were such eye-openers. They were both relevant to the topic. The discussions caused many of us to think differently about the effects of inequality in education.


--"Service in an Age of Inequality" Discussion Participant

Audience Focus

24 civic leaders from national service programs and state service commissions from Chicago, Texas, Colorado, Indiana, and beyond


  1. Explore what service and volunteerism do to address socioeconomic disparity – and brainstorm what it could do in the future
  2. Bring leaders in the service sector together to listen to one another and discuss issues across difference.
  3. Examine current issues and the impact the participants’ organizations have on the world.
"Home Funeral" photograph with words that came to mind when discussion participants looked at this image surrounding the photo on post-it notes
Before the discussion, participants wrote down one word that came to mind when they looked at this photograph

Project Description

The Center for Civic Reflection partnered with WBEZ Chicago Public Media to lead a discussion with 24 civic leaders on “Service in an Age of Inequality.” During the discussion, participants shared thoughts on inequality and whether service and volunteerism are effective responses to the socioeconomic gaps they attempt to address. Participants read 2012 statistics on upward trends of unemployment, dropout rates, homelessness, incarceration, and debt and shared reactions to the trends. They also read Adam Zagajewski’s poem, “Try to Praise the Mutilated World,” looked at a series of striking images, and reflected on the challenges of praising the communities they serve and locating the impact of their work today. Here is a link to an article written by WBEZ Director of Strategic Partnerships, Breeze Richardson, on the “Service in an Age of Inequality” discussion, along with an audio recording of the discussion.


  1. 80% of those polled reported that the discussion helped them think more deeply about service and its impact “to a great extent.”
  2. 100% of those polled reported that the discussion helped them to better understand the perspectives of fellow community members.
  3. 100% of those polled claimed that they would be interested in similarly organized community discussions in the future


civic and community leaderspublic programs

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