CitationDownload as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
A call for community conversations
Article Type: Commentaries From: International Journal of Organizational Analysis, Volume 18, Issue 2
Service-learning […] It is not just for students anymore.
In times of “vast social, economic, environmental, technological, and global changes, changes so unique and wide-ranging we have no data for how to assess their impact or how to deal with them” (DiPadova-Stocks, 2007, p. 92), there is a need to bring together all of our creativity and intellectual capital, including institutions of higher learning, into the planning fabric of the our communities. We need to bring together the private, public, and non-profit sectors to move service-learning outside the classroom, to transfer our knowledge, learning and leadership strategies to a community level while learning from community members preparing leaders to collaboratively address the challenges we face, together.
As educators of future leaders, our central challenge, to date, has been to engage students, teaching them civic responsibility and integrating meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience. From this point forward, we must work with communities and all sectors of society, diagnosing situations, designing and facilitating interventions, measuring the impact, collecting and managing data, and conducting research through a nationwide network of community-focused, university-related service-learning programs.
We are approaching the tipping point for service-learning: moving it from the classroom into community. Increasingly, service-learning is seen as a tool to strengthen local service networks. It is being used as a strategy to recruit, train, and create communities of engaged leaders […] leaders working together to affect community change. How do we move beyond service-learning as an educational pedagogy, to formalize and operationalize service-learning in community? How do we make it a standard methodology for engaging and training community members to identify, prioritize and address community needs across the country?
The Canadian Council of Learning (2008) reported:
The historically rich relationships between communities and colleges and institutes provide the context for mutually beneficial research through the practice of community-based research. Trends to engage faculty and students with the community through service-learning and the desire for many community organizations to identify their own research needs and seek research partnerships with colleges converge to enrich this practice.
The Canadians may have something here.
Given the dynamic times in which we live, we would be wise to begin community conversations, across the country and the globe, to begin the process of identifying the intellectual, physical and human resources locally, across sectors, defining roles, and developing partnerships to collectively address our most pressing and adaptive challenges.
By incorporating community conversations with service-learning into our community planning and development processes, we provide and sanction citizen involvement, create opportunities to provide trainings in civic engagement and advocacy and further encourage involvement of a re-engaged populace. This is a process of intense learning for everyone and every constituency involved. Partners in this process will be defined by and vary according to the areas of conversation […] emergency and disaster preparedness, public safety, neighborhood development, environmental preservation, education, family services, etc.
Increasingly our children are more familiar with service-learning than we are as adults. Children engage in service-learning through their schools. In order for us to create a community-based movement, we need to learn from our children and learn from our communities, train community leaders, establish a common vocabulary which can help institutionalize our message, and integrate that message with our community planning processes.
Let us begin to talk, as educators in professional fields and then as representatives of systems of higher education about how we might begin partnering with local governments, with area nonprofits, with neighborhood groups, business organizations and community-based civic leadership programs to plan, engage, and train community members to facilitate community conversations to identify, prioritize, and work collectively to address the vast challenges that face our nations and the world.
About the author
Don Wise is a Fellow at the Hauptmann School for Public Affairs and Co-Director of The Coro Kansas City Leadership program at the Center for Leadership at Park University. He is the Former Director of the Civic Leadership Training Council in Kansas City, Kansas. He has a Master’s degree in Adaptive Education from Ohio State University and has designed and teaches a variety of graduate level courses in community and non-profit leadership.
Canadian Council of Learning and the Health and Learning Knowledge Centre (2008), Conversations on Community Based Research: Engaging Communities with College, Douglas College in Coquitlam BC, May 7-8, http://staging.servicelearning.org/event/conversations-community-based-research-engaging-communities-college
DiPadova-Stocks, L.N. (2007), “Fostering social and civic responsibility by organizations and their people”, in Wankel, C. (Ed.), Handbook of 21st Century Management, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 84–94