June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
June 19, 2019
Community Engagement Division
Engagements in community development through university service learning programs continually seek to balance sustainable growth of communities with the student learning experience. As the student learning experience is elevated in priority, programs risk falling into shallow transactional and “projectized” engagements with communities that conform well to the academic calendar but leave community partners less as active participants empowered to reach future goals and more as beneficiaries of prescribed solutions developed “for them”. This paper explores humanitarian development and innovation through the lens of changes in our vocabulary that happen as we seek to bring renewed focus to the communities in which we work. Specifically, the relationships, attitudes, outcomes and feelings associated with our work together are described using observations from service learning engagements at X University with partners in four very different geographical settings: Central Ohio, Ghana, Tanzania and Honduras. For example, when we focus more on student outcomes, our measures of success tend toward “project vocabulary” and we speak of “delivering solutions to beneficiaries”. When our focus shifts towards what is best for growth in partner communities, we use more “process vocabulary”, e.g., “building trust as we co-develop sustainable processes”. The result is that communities we work with feel increasingly empowered, trusted, respected and affirmed, as opposed to helpless, suspicious, ignored and patronized. Similarly, when we focus on communities, our relationships tend to be more transparent, collaborative and participatory, and less hidden, unilateral and paternalistic. By examining our vocabulary, we can assess our service learning programs and gain insight into the challenges associated with balancing the student learning experience with long-term sustained growth in communities.
<For inclusion in "Engineers and Communities: Critical Reflections of Challenges, Opportunities, and Practices of Engaging Each Other", Session for Engagement in Practice Papers, Session Chair: Juan Lucena, Colorado School of Mines>
Greene, H. L., & Eldridge, K., & Sours, P. J. (2019, June), Engagement in Practice: The Vocabulary of Community Development as an Indicator of a Participatory Mind-set Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32714
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