5 “Conference” Innovations: Co-creating the 4th International Service-Learning Summit

August 9, 2016

This October 23 – 25, practitioners, researchers, and administrators will gather for the 4th International Service-Learning Summit at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. We will build on challenges and insights developed through the ISL Summit series in 5 specific ways:

1. Leading from the Global South

At the March 2015 Duke ISL Summit and the following August at Kansas State University’s Leading Change Institute, individuals from the Global South spoke eloquently about how important it is to have more Southern leadership at global service-learning gatherings held in the Global North. Our first plenary speakers are therefore Dr. Ramaswami Balasubramaniam and Dr. Janice McMillan. Dr. Balasubramaniam is a development activist, leadership trainer and a public policy advocate in India, while Dr. McMillan is a Senior Lecturer and Convener/co-Founder of the University of Cape Town’s Global Citizenship program in South Africa.

2. Democratizing co-creation and participation

This is the first Summit to employ an open submission and peer-review process, leading to an impressive diversity of presenters in the official program. Presenters represent community based organizations, NGOs, and universities from throughout the Americas and the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia. 

3. Maintaining and expanding opportunities for engaged learning and discussion

Throughout its history, the ISL Summit has employed participatory methods. This gathering will again include dialogue on case studies as well as other structured spaces for participation, feedback and interaction. Participants should come prepared for continuous engagement.

4. Understanding challenges from communities and development professionals

Participants at previous gatherings also noted the importance of more systematically learning from community organizations and development professionals. Our second set of plenary speakers, Ms. Florence Martin and Dr. Noelle Sullivan, speak directly to challenges with international volunteering and service-learning that have been documented by international development professionals and related research communities. Ms. Martin is Director of the Better Care Network and is co-chair of a global initiative, Better Volunteering, Better Care (BVBC). BVBC discourages international volunteering in residential care centers and promotes ethical alternatives supporting children and families. Dr. Sullivan has conducted ethnographic research in clinical settings in Tanzania since 2005, and conducted research on international clinical volunteering in the country since 2013.

These issues have recently received a great deal of attention in the regular and academic presses. See:

5. Stepping forward

This summit includes leadership from the Global South, voices of development professionals and researchers, an open submission process, and continuous participatory opportunities. The ISL Summit participant community made these suggestions and built this community of practice. We have more work to do.

Feedback from previous summits suggests participants would like to step forward with greater clarity regarding what they can implement on their home campuses and how we can agree to and advance real standards together. This is a challenge we have heard and we look forward to cooperating with all of you to further advance such tangible outcomes during this Summit.

Our final morning will build upon Summit pre-surveys and online interactions, while also harvesting insights from participation and dialogue during the Summit. We will consider and mark our next steps forward. This session will be facilitated by skilled practitioners Dr. Patti Clayton, Dr. Mary Price, and Ms. Lori Kniffin.

Dr. Clayton is an Independent Consultant, Senior Scholar at IUPUI, and Visiting Scholar at the University of North Carolina Greensboro who has contributed mightily to the field of service-learning and community engagement. Dr. Mary Price is an anthropologist and Director of Faculty Development at the Center for Service and Learning, IUPUI. Her background in anthropology and development provide her with a keen and critical eye for engaging cross-cultural development practice. Ms. Lori Kniffin recently left her role as an instructor and advisor at the Staley School of Leadership Studies to pursue a doctorate at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, where she is a graduate Assistant in the Institute for Economic and Community Engagement.

We look forward to an engaging Summit, moving forward best practices and understanding at the intersection of global learning and cooperative development.


Manhattan, Kansas, is beautiful in the fall.

View the program, register now and book your hotel.

The 4th ISL Summit is hosted by the Staley School of Leadership Studies at Kansas State University. Summit co-sponsors are Cornell University, Duke University, Northwestern University, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Notre Dame.

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