SLCE Future Directions Project: Co-Creating the Future of the SLCE Movement
by Patti H. Clayton, Sarah E. Stanlick, & Lori E. Kniffin
What is your vision for the future of SLCE? Why? What must we particularly attend to in order to support the flourishing of the work in this direction?
An initiative we are particularly excited about is the Service-Learning and Community Engagement Future Directions Project (SLCE-FDP). Led by the three of us (Patti, Sarah, and Lori) along with Edward Zlotkowski, and Jeff Howard, it was launched in 2015 to build on the article Edward had written 20 years earlier, asking the question “Does service-learning have a future?” His answer then was a contingent “yes”: The movement could have a future if it developed a strong academic orientation. Many practitioner-scholars focused their efforts accordingly. Academic centers were established, faculty development grew, curricular design resources were created, and research agendas were articulated.
The introductory essay that launched the SLCE-FDP summarizes the project’s starting points:
The dedicated leadership of students, community members, faculty, and staff … has rendered the earlier question posed by Zlotkowski’s title – does SL have a future – largely moot.
The richness of what we now understand as service-learning and community engagement (SLCE) and the complexities of how we now position it in local and global social, political, economic, cultural, and ecological contexts give rise to different questions for the coming decades. In general terms: What are our visions now for the future of SLCE, why, and what will it take to get there? With more nuance: How can we best come together around the question of our work’s ultimate purposes and focus effectively on what we are trying to achieve? How can we leverage the movement to advance those ends – intentionally, inclusively, and with integrity? … What fundamental, transformative changes are required to realize our ends, and for the associated paradigms and practices to emerge, grow, and be sustained?
The SLCE-FDP catalyzes movement-wide visioning, dialogue, and action focused on (a) exploring our work’s ultimate purposes and (b) leveraging the movement to advance those ends—intentionally, inclusively, and with integrity. The project takes place in a variety of venues: an online learning community (www.slce-fdp.org), in-person conversations, and Special Sections of the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning (MJCSL). It invites, assembles, and analyzes short thought pieces, blog posts, website comments, and notes from campus, community, and conference convenings. The project’s leadership team uses this thinking to facilitate visioning and planning sessions as well as professional development related to the future of SLCE with campuses and other organizations.
The project encourages and organizes an ever-widening conversation about the future directions of SLCE. We’re serious about bringing co-inquiry to life here! The introductory essay calls for “the full range of perspectives and experiences to be at the table as we move forward from the current crossroad”—both new and established voices, both champions and critical friends. Contributors to date include undergraduates, recent alums, graduate students, consultants, early career faculty and staff, tenured faculty, thought leaders, student services professionals, leaders of education organizations in the United States, social networkers, local and national nonprofit leaders, third party SLCE providers, and senior administrators.
At the outset of this project, the curators and early contributors established a few guiding questions designed to prompt bold thinking:
What are some of our SLCE colleagues proposing about the future of the movement? These excerpts from some of the thought pieces published in 2015 illustrate the range of bold calls:
- We call for attention to asset-based approaches … in first-year courses … that, from the beginning, help undergraduates see themselves and others on an equal footing and learn to look for, appreciate, and build on their own and others’ strengths. –Tamara Bauer, Lori Kniffin, & Kerry Priest
- Maybe … twenty years from now students of color will know how to manage the identities and worlds they straddle in ways that trend more toward healing than toward “two-ness” … [and] there will no longer be a “served” versus “server” dynamic … –Gabrielle Hickmon
- How can GSL programs stay committed to student learning while simultaneously becoming more … nurturing of relationships among individuals and communities around the world? –Kathryn Pisco
- SLCE that is … “place-engaged” … [includes] understanding place as partner – with a particular local voice, history, culture, politics, and ecology that … co-creates … possible alternative futures toward which this work aims. –Cheryl Siemers, Barbara Harrison, Patti Clayton, & Talmage Stanley
- We recommend that students be encouraged to collaborate as co-leaders … community members be empowered to … co-lead projects, and … faculty learn to … collaborate … in non-hierarchical … ways. –Travis Hicks, Liz Seymour, & Allison Puppo
We invite you to read the Introduction, framing essay (by Edward Zlotkowski), first ten thought pieces, and call for a national strategic plan – all from 2015 and available at www.slce-fdp.org – and post comments (questions, ideas, resources, links). We hope you will join this learning community. Proposals for blog posts and thought pieces are welcome at any time, and you can find ways to get involved here. For additional information, contact Sarah Stanlick and Patti Clayton at email@example.com.
In a later blog post, we will share some upcoming pieces that will be published on the website and in MJCSL spring 2017.
Zlotkowski, E. (1995). Does service-learning have a future? Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 2(1), 123-133.
Patti H. Clayton (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an SLCE consultant (PHC Ventures, www.curricularengagement.com), a Senior Scholar with IUPUI and UNCG, and a Visiting Senior Scholar with Kansas State University. She facilitates professional and organizational development, co-produces practice-oriented scholarly resources, and is currently co-facilitating the international Service-Learning and Community Engagement Future Directions Project (SLCE-FDP; www.slce-fdp.org).
Sarah E. Stanlick (email@example.com) is the founding director of Lehigh University’s Center for Community Engagement and a professor of practice in Sociology and Anthropology. She teaches interdisciplinary courses that span sociology, global citizenship, technology, and SLCE, including most recently the sociology of cyberspace and an introductory course on the values and ethics of community-engaged research. She is currently co-facilitating the SLCE-FDP.
Lori E. Kniffin (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a doctoral student in Cultural Foundations of Education and a graduate assistant at the Institute for Community and Economic Engagement at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In her previous role at the Staley School of Leadership Studies at Kansas State University, she taught an SLCE junior-level leadership course that worked to advance food justice on and off campus for five years. She is chair of the IARSLCE Graduate Student Network and the inaugural Fellow on the SLCE-FDP.
Note: This is the fifth in a series of blog posts. Check in regularly to learn more about and contribute to discussion of foundational knowledge, promising practices, helpful resources, and future directions of SLCE.