‘Service’ is stodgy. What’s a better word for what we do?

As we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this week and people across the U.S. come together to help each other and work toward solving our common problems, we’d like to pose the question: what exactly is social good?

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What’s this guy doing? You tell us.
(photo courtesy Shutterstock)

At Idealist, we’re all about helping people find the information, connections, and resources they need to turn their good intentions into action.

As blog writers, we’re all about making keen, conscious word choices that we hope will excite, motivate, and paint a vivid picture for our readers.

At the intersection of these aims is one of our favorite essays by Idealist founder Ami Dar, published as part of Fast Company and Catchafire’s “Co.Exist: World Changing Ideas and Innovation” series in the spring of 2012. Here’s an excerpt:

Outside of the military, who goes to a dinner party and asks people where they “serve”? Only we, the organizations and foundations that make up the “service industrial complex” talk this way. People want to build, coach, teach, help, and if we want to engage them, we have to talk like them.

Read the whole thing on Co.Exist.

What words might better describe “service” to you? Tell us in the comments.

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Comments (2)


  1. Maggie Hess writes:
    January 21, 2014 at 8:09 am

    this question is a provocative nugget of inspiration for a creative writer.

    So here goes: Invest, Occupy, Charge, Infuse, Act.

    And a few from my own resume: Wrote, Lead, Assisted, Published, Served.

    Yeah, your post makes me think, when might a person in my presence be working on a volunteer basis, whether just being present with an elderly person who needs their company or diligently researching to end a disease, there are myriad ways to do good.


  2. Fred760 writes:
    January 22, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    I don’t have any problem telling people I’m an Idealist. If they want to no more, we can chat.

    How about engaged? Engagement? “I am engaged.” “To who?” “In the struggle against poverty and injustice.” “Oh, dear…”

    or Activist, which usually implies ad hoc, unpaid, self directed social benefit efforts?


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