8 Years On: Accomplishments, Current Needs, Stepping Strategically

October 31, 2019

Eight years ago, the 1st International Service-Learning Summit focused on quality and critical concerns regarding higher education institutions involved in international service and civic engagement. That first gathering sparked the development of a community of practice dedicated to partnerships that benefit communities and students at home and abroad, The Globalsl Network. Today, we recognize several accomplishments, numerous continuing needs, and a shift in our strategy moving forward. 

What have we achieved? 

The Globalsl Network has gathered more than 1,000 people in in-person dialogues in the name of advancing ethical community-campus partnerships and critical global citizenship. Network members have produced scores of related popular and academic articles and books, and the ideas shared in those pieces have also been translated into broadly recognized standards. The Fair Trade Learning approach employed by a number of members plays a pivotal role in the Forum on Education Abroad’s Guidelines for Service-Learning, Community Engagement, and Volunteering Abroad and the American Gap Year Association’s Program Standards, in addition to influencing practice in community-campus partnerships all around the world. 

Throughout its history, the network has mobilized insights on ethical community-campus partnerships, by accumulating relevant peer-reviewed resources and tools while also developing concise videos and sharing hundreds of relevant blog posts. Both of the latter are particularly helpful in the important process of communicating research and practice insights across languages, community and campus sites, and disciplines. 

Mobilizing these resources has translated into real results. In a recent survey of Globalsl Network Stakeholders, summarized here, more than ninety percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “As a result of participation in or because of content mobilized by The Globalsl Network, I have changed my own practice with community-engaged learning, for the better.” Ninety percent of respondents also agree or strongly agree that “The Globalsl Network makes a necessary, unique contribution to the higher education international education and study abroad landscape.” The resources, national and international guidelines, and testimonies of change linked above demonstrate our network outcomes while also showing that the landscape around us has shifted. 

What should be our next steps? 

Globalsl Governance Committees have been asking – how best do we steward our limited time and resources to maximize our contributions to the evolving movement for ethical community-campus partnerships that advance critical global citizenship and support just, inclusive, sustainable communities? We seek your input on that question, via email (buildingbetterworld(at)gmail(dot)com), in person, or during the upcoming Summit at Clemson University. This question will inform the planning session with Eric Hartman and Nora Reynolds on Monday, November 4, from 12:45 – 2:00 pm, in the Madren Center Auditorium. The closing session will also feature consideration of key tensions and next steps. While we seek innovative ideas to push us in recognizing how best to support and mobilize this community in the years to come, we already anticipate some specific changes based on accumulated feedback over the last year and more. These changes should relieve some of our time to focus energies and resources elsewhere. 

Anticipated Changes 

Combined with our shared experiences over the past eight years, evaluations following GSL 5, and time tracking data on Globalsl staffing sustainability, the survey further clarifies that large Summits and the Global Engagement Survey take an inordinate amount of staff time. Summits have led to scores of productive collaborations, and the survey has informed dozens of reports, related institutional changes, three articles, and two articles that are now under revise and resubmit status. We recognize the mighty contributions of these two activities, as we prepare to move forward under different terms. 

The Globalsl Network membership has clarified its commitment to the movement for ethical, critical, and aspirationally de-colonial community-based learning and research for more just, inclusive, and sustainable communities. To smartly and effectively utilize our resources, to recognize movement and change within other associations with which we may partner on large gatherings, in recognition of the high environmental and financial costs of short-term gatherings, and to recognize our role as a bridging community rather than necessarily a community in and of itself, the Globalsl Network today announces the cessation of summits in their present form. 

The executive committee and stakeholders clearly recognize the value of this community gathering together. We anticipate identifying other conferences where we can gather, organizing pre- or post- gatherings specific to this community that has nurtured and grown so many of us. At this time, we invite expressions of interest and collaboration from other networks or associations. We also note that our members and closest stakeholders clearly value small, discursive, exploratory, place-based gatherings, and we anticipate continuing collaboration in the production of small institutes and seminars, such as those we have facilitated at Haverford College, the University of Dayton, and Cornell University.    

The Global Engagement Survey is a valid and reliable quantitative survey integrated with a qualitatively illuminating question set, resulting in a mixed methods instrument that supports learning and positive change. It provides opportunities for the production of helpful reports, catalyzes peer-to-peer learning opportunities and collaborations between different institutions/ organizations, and provides a deeper understanding of the relationships among participant identity, program factors, context, and global learning outcomes. However, the time-intensive nature of facilitating the GES requires the network to step back from this commitment, with some caveats for institutions that are already part of the survey or that have other extenuating commitments related to the GES. 

What, then, will the Globalsl Network be, and what will it provide? 

These moves return the network to the place where it began, and to those commitments and products valued most by network members. Globalsl is a community of deep-thinking, striving, critical doers, dedicated to building better, sustainable, just, and inclusive communities at the intersection of inquiry and action, often bridging campus and community. We have re-clarified our mission: 

Through a network of educational institutions and community organizations, globalsl advances ethical, critical, and aspirationally de-colonial community-based learning and research for more just, inclusive, and sustainable communities. 

In the year to come, in addition to responding to emerging ideas at the 6th GSL Summit and beyond, we anticipate continuing to build the website that has served as a recognized knowledge hub since 2012, and has done so in partnership with Campus Compact since 2016. Allowing that we have made significant progress, it remains clear that dominant narratives around both campus-community and international service partnerships are frequently deficit-focused and paternalistic. Our resources work to upend this problem, supporting asset-based, complex, diverse and inclusive alliance-building for just, inclusive, and sustainable initiatives, partnerships, and communities. 

We will take the time necessary to update that resource base with special relevance for community-driven, public scholarship that advances robust and critical global citizenship today. In the weeks and months to come, we will also determine a schedule for online webinars to be part of our community-nurturing and building. We invite expressions of interest from individuals interested in facilitating online conversations, authoring blogs, or otherwise collaborating with us to build this online space. 

At the Clemson Summit, from Nov 3 – 5, 2019, we look forward to hearing ideas that will further catalyze our next steps.

We remain fiercely committed to critical inquiry and consequential action for just, inclusive, sustainable communities. 

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