Patrick Corvington and the Corporation for National and Community Service

Two weeks ago, President Obama announced his nomination of Patrick Corvington to serve as the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service (the Corporation), the federal agency that manages national service programs such as AmeriCorps, Learn & Serve America, and SeniorCorps. I worked at the Corporation for a number of years as a program officer in the 1990s and recently had the pleasure to work with the agency again on a short-term contract. I continue to believe and support the agency’s mission and its work.

A few have written about Patrick’s nomination. I want to add a personal reflection, having known him since we served together on the Board of Directors of Washington Grantmakers for several years, and note some of the challenges he will have to address assuming he’s confirmed by the Congress.

Patrick and I first met when we joined the Washington Grantmakers board in 2006. The board’s immediate challenge was to navigate the organization through a significant leadership change and reprioritization of its mission and focus. Throughout that difficult period, Patrick demonstrated the abilities that will serve him well in his new role. He thoughtfully participated in difficult discussions, listened to and respected divergent opinions, and asked insightful and probing questions. His capacity to both look at the micro details and bigger picture were also frequently in evidence.

The challenges Patrick will face – the same challenges that Maria Eitel, who was previously nominated for the position, would have faced – are by no means insignificant. They involve significant internal management challenges, high White House and public expectations, and continued Congressional pressure to further investigate the Obama Administration’s firing in June of Gerald Walpin as the Corporation’s Inspector General. The Nonprofit Quarterly wrote a very prescient and pointed opinion letter on the challenges Patrick will face. To that long list of challenges, I would add an ongoing transition within the Corporation’s Board of Directors and a customer service approach that needs a significant overhaul in order to adequately address concerns from national service participants and grantees as the number of positions the Corporation funds nearly quadruples by 2017.

The skills Patrick will bring to his new position as the CEO of the Corporation will serve him well. Patrick’s experiences within philanthropy, especially his recent work on nonprofit leadership transitions and leadership development, as well as his work to support nonprofit effectiveness and evaluation will become invaluable in his new role. This will become especially evident as he leads the Corporation to further improve its core programs and advance its new initiatives such as the Social Innovation Fund (more on that in my next post). I applaud the White House for nominating Patrick to the position as this critical moment in Corporation’s existence and wish him a very smooth transition into his new role.

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