The Four Types of Service Action

Grade Level: 
KS4, PreK, K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, KS1, KS2, KS3
Common Good
Service Learning
Youth action may be direct, indirect, advocacy, research, or a combination of these.

Four Types of Service 

After learning about a community need, we explore ways to take action beyond the fundraiser or canned food drive. It is helpful to be aware that service may take four basic forms:

Direct, Indirect, Advocacy and Research

  • Direct Service is service that direct affects the persons, animals or parks we want to impact. This may include volunteering or cleaning up a park.
  • Indirect Service might take the form of fundraising or collections. It is they type of service in which you are not in the presence of the person or thing you are impacting.
  • Advocacy is when you speak up for or against an issue or solution. When we use our voices, we are being advocates. This guide has more about Advocacy.
  • Research involves finding out new information that informs or demands action. For example, collecting scientific data or surveying a group.

Examples to Illustrate Types of Action


Sample types of action for building a culture of kindness

Direct: Craft bracelets or pins with inspirational quotes and give them to people in the community that may need support

Indirect: Organize a collection drive to ask neighbords and school families to donate supplies or gifts for a family that has recently experienced a loss.

Advocacy: Call attention to problems related to cyber-bullying and ask that the school or community offer anti-bullying training. 

Research: Research state and national laws on cyber-bullying. Share the current legislature and data with the school and community to create more advocacy. 

Environmental Stewardship

Sample types of action for the environment

Direct: Build birdhouses in collaboration with the local nature center to attract a bird whose home is threatened. 

Indirect: Organize a collection drive to ask neighbors and school families to donate garden supplies for a community garden. 

Advocacy: Hold a community information night to inform neighbors about the importance of reducing invasive species. 

Research: Take water samples and participate in species count days. Share research data about the health of a site in order to ask the community to take action. 

Intergenerational Relationships

Sample types of action for building intergenerational relationships

Direct: Partner with a local senior living community or senior center (or daycare center). Youth could host a game night, read together, or participate in one-on-one conversations. 

Indirect: Organize a collection drive to ask neighbors and school families to donate books, magazines, equipment or other items to a local retirement community or a daycare. 

Advocacy: Hold a community information night to inform community members about the needs of seniors in the community. Try to coordinate ways to get them the help they need. 

Research: Research the best energy practices and learn what minor changes people can do to reduce costs and increase efficiency. Share this information with seniors in the community. 

Action often takes place in a community where youth have identified a need.

Understanding purpose and context come from connecting to the people who are closest to the issue. Involve them in identifying solutions and taking action that works. Remember, the community isn't just your local neighborhood; a community can be as small as a group of people and as large as the world!

Additional Resources

  • The Issue Area Toolkits each provide examples of the four types of service, as well as links to lessons and activities to support youth throughout the service-learning process. 
  • Make effective Advocacy Posters with this Guide.