Toward a National Agenda for SLCE?
by Lori E. Kniffin, Patti H. Clayton, & Sarah E. Stanlick
In an earlier blog post, we introduced the Service-Learning and Community Engagement Future Directions Project (SLCE-FDP). We invited you to join this learning community and contribute your own thinking in response to the questions: 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?
Over 20 contributors across a wide range of roles in and relationships with SLCE authored short thought pieces that were published on the SLCE website and in the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning (MJCSL) in the fall of 2015. Other colleagues have commented on the thought pieces as the project has found its way into conversations on campuses and in communities. We were particularly excited to see a group of nonprofit leaders in Iowa share their thinking about how to create stronger community-campus partnerships on the project’s website.
Just under 20 contributors generated thought pieces in the fall of 2016, and we are currently working with over 30 authors on pieces that are under development to be published during 2017. Here is a sneak peek into some of these emerging bold calls for SLCE, which along with the 2015 set of thought pieces may serve as useful resources in your own work:
- Learning from the experiences of community organizations about how to navigate the challenges of democratic engagement
- Creating pathways to SLCE through the design of graduate education
- Aligning assessment of SLCE with the values of democratic civic engagement
- Navigating the neoliberal influences on higher education
- Integrating the perspective of Critical University Studies into SLCE
- Cultivating partnership power dynamics that are just, fair, and inclusive.
- Practicing the scholarship of teaching and learning as democratic engagement
- Learning from community members as co-educators in faculty development
- Advancing social justice through SLCE
- Integrating sustainability into SLCE for ecological and social justice
- Catalyzing and sustaining deep, pervasive, and integrated SLCE through transdisciplinarity
- Reconceptualizing faculty development toward organic networks
- Moving beyond “one and done” SLCE to advance social sustainability
- Interacting with and learning from SLCE practitioners from around the world
Why might you want to become part of the SLCE-FDP community? The reasons may be as many and varied as the contributors and include:
- Learning what others are thinking about and helping shape their thinking
- Putting your ideas out there quickly and in short form for feedback
- Deepening your own practice
- Helping generate materials that can be used for professional development among all partners in SLCE
- Using the thinking gathered here as a springboard for local conversations and projects
- Being part of an international community of colleagues and perhaps finding new collaborators
- Adding to the growing momentum around a very concrete attempt to enact democratic engagement
- Providing leadership in the growth of SLCE and calling on your colleagues to do the same
- Using the drafting of a short thought piece to launch a larger thinking and writing project
Although to date the thought pieces have all taken the form of written essays, we welcome ideas for other, creative approaches. Do you want to write a poem, produce a video, share a performance, document a story circle, or post an interview? Help broaden the SLCE-FDP to include a variety of formats.
In addition to publishing thought pieces, the SLCE-FDP has served as a vehicle for thinking together about the future at a variety of conferences including: International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement (2015, 2016); Gulf-South Summit on Service-Learning and Civic Engagement through Higher Education (2016); Conference on Applied Learning in Higher Education (2016); Campus Compact’s 30th anniversary (2016); North Carolina Campus Compact’s Civic Engagement Administrators’ conference (2015, 2016) and its Civic Engagement Institute (CEI) and Pathways to Achieving Civic Engagement (PACE) conference (2016); Imagining America (2015, 2016); and the International Service-Learning Summit (2016). Let us know if you’d like to bring the project to your gathering.
So what will happen with all the ideas being generated by all of these participants and contributors? Well, that’s really up to this learning community. One possibility is to draw on them to develop a national agenda or set of strategic priorities for SLCE in the U.S. Howard and Stanlick initiated conversation about this in the first set of essays published by the SLCE-FDP:
This essay calls for the development and implementation of a U.S. national SLCE strategic plan…The kind of plan we have in mind is an intentional organizing effort broadly developed among multiple stakeholders, not a top-down pronouncement. A multi-voice plan could move us beyond the current prevalence of independent, individual efforts by a plethora of faculty, students, community members, academic institutions, and community organizations to a more coherent nationwide collective endeavor.
Their call is stimulating discussion at various convenings across the United States, which the SLCE-FDP is documenting and analyzing. We are gathering ideas for the process of developing a national agenda/plan as well as for its content. One participant gave voice to a central rationale for developing a national agenda: “Generate an understanding of the central purpose to our work so that we are grounded even when we are pulled in different directions.” Another asked: How do we “dream big but be realistic?”
Join us in the SLCE-FDP and help shape the future of the SLCE community. We encourage you to read the material being assembled on the SLCE-FDP website. Post comments (questions, ideas, resources, links). Use the project in your own work—and let us know what you are doing with it. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lori E. Kniffin (email@example.com) 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 international Service-Learning and Community Engagement Future Directions Project (SLCE-FDP; www.slce-fdp.org).
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 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 (www.slce-fdp.org).
Note: This is the last in a series of blog posts. Check out any of the other posts you missed to learn more about and contribute to discussion of foundational knowledge, promising practices, helpful resources, and future directions of SLCE.