For Immediate Release
June 20, 2022
Media Contact:
Katie Vavao, 916-584-3620

California Volunteers and UC Berkeley Partner
to Stem Growing Polarization by Strengthening Social Connections

Grant award will improve connections between service members and their communities through the development of curriculum to enhance learning and deepen the impacts of service

Sacramento, Calif. – California Volunteers, Office of the Governor is partnering with the University of California, Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and Othering & Belonging Institute to improve connection-building between service members and the communities they serve.

“As a veteran, I know the power of service to bring people together. With this new partnership, we will develop trainings and tools to improve these connections,” said California Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday.

California Volunteers awarded UC Berkeley the Connecting Californians through Service competitive grant for $750,000. The grant is a new Initiative by the Administration focused on demonstrating the impact service has on building social cohesion to increase connection and community while reducing polarization, division, and othering.

“There is no greater challenge facing us today than our growing alienation from one another. That’s why I am so proud to be a part of this important new partnership,” said john a. powell, director of the UC Berkeley Othering & Belonging Institute. “California Volunteers’ visionary support will no doubt change the field of public service for years to come by allowing us to produce practical, evidence-based tools and scalable solutions that can help us build a California where everyone belongs.”

With the funding, the Greater Good Science Center and the Othering & Belonging Institute will work together to develop an evidence-based program to train a cohort of volunteers so they can more effectively work together in communities to take on some of the state’s most pressing issues.

The curriculum will be designed to help volunteers develop key interpersonal skills, such as techniques for truly listening to other people’s viewpoints and constructively resolving conflicts. It will also be designed to help service program leaders identify how to bring people of different backgrounds together in ways that encourage them to develop stronger social bonds.

Researchers from the Greater Good Science Center will chart how this curriculum benefits volunteers, including in their broader sense of social connection and belonging, and their personal sense of meaning and purpose. The research team intends to develop an adaptable approach to evaluate the curriculum that could ultimately be used by other service programs to explore how service in young people is vital to social cohesion and well-being.

“We know from empirical science that there are few things that bring people together more than service. Working on behalf of others not only promotes individual well-being but creates a sense of common cause and social cohesion,” said Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at UC Berkeley and faculty director of the Greater Good Science Center. “Through this partnership, we will promote new curricula and empirical research to inspire the next generation of young people to pursue lives of service and spread its many benefits.”

For more information on the grant recipients, visit the Greater Good Science Center website and the Othering & Belonging Institute website.


Led by California Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday, California Volunteers, Office of the Governor empowers Californians to take action to improve their communities. #CaliforniansForAll is a California Volunteers service initiative launched in response to COVID-19 to establish a volunteer corps to support the state’s response to emergencies and disasters.