The Meaning of Service (MoS)

Meaning of Service discussion in MontanaMeaning of Service discussion in Montana

The Meaning of Service (MoS) was a national reading and discussion program that engaged service volunteers in conversations about the nature of justice, service, and the public good. Using short philosophical, literary, and provocative texts, and led by trained facilitators, these discussions brought regular reading and reflection into the center of service work. By reflecting on why, how, and who they serve, participants wrestled with and enhanced their service experience, for themselves and those they serve.

The IHC partners with the Project on Civic Reflection - the nation’s leading provider of facilitation training and program consultation for this model of humanities-based discussion - to train facilitators, work with service organizations, and develop a MoS assistance network across the country.

  • Read all about our new $350,000 grant from NEH to support MoS expansion!

NEH Chairman Jim Leach participates in a Meaning of Service discussionNEH Chairman Jim Leach participates in a Meaning of Service discussion

MoS currently engages close to 200 young volunteers at eight sites in Illinois: City Year, PCC Wellness, Literacy Volunteers of Illinois, Notre Dame Mercy Americorps, Project Yes, and Asian Human Services in Chicago, as well as Belleville AmeriCorps in Belleville and the Illinois Public Health Association in Springfield.

The program was founded in 2003 as a pilot program in Chicago, with support and guidance from the Project on Civic Reflection. In 2005, the IHC received a three-year NEH grant to expand the program in Illinois and to twelve other states. Using lessons learned from the previous national expansion, the IHC received another three-year NEH grant in 2010 to help make reading and reflection a key feature of the service experience in Illinois and in seven other states: Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, New York, Ohio, Wyoming, and Florida.


The Meaning of Service is generously supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Special thanks to Southwest Airlines, the official travel sponsor for The Meaning of Service.