Fair Trade Learning for Intentional Gap Year Education

February 11, 2021

Elizabeth Bezark, Gap Year Association

Event: Wednesday March 10th 2:00 – 3:00pm EST: Applying Fair Trade Learning to Gap Year Education – A Gap Year Association Deeper Dialogue w/ the Community-Based Global Learning Collaborative. 

Click this link to register!

Event description: Many gap year experiences include some form of community-based learning, or service learning. Whether you work with a community-based organization or institution, or whether you work with gap year students as a program provider or counselor, Fair Trade Learning principles offer an intentional roadmap toward deeper ethics in community partnerships. Learn more about these principles, how the Gap Year Association adapts them for their Standards of Accreditation, and how your organization can apply them too during this event

What is Fair Trade Learning and Who Uses It?

Fair Trade Learning, a set of principles that the Community-Based Global Learning Collaborative authors, are the highest standards of best practices across networks in international higher education, gap year education, and community-based education. The Forum on Education Abroad (see pg. 17 of the linked document) and the Gap Year Association (see pg. 35-42 of the linked document) alike have adopted these principles for their members to implement in their programs. Many universities adapt and use them as well in their community-based learning activities. 

The Gap Year Association: Mission, Vision, and Fair Trade Learning Adaptation

The Gap Year Association (GYA) is the official Standards Development Organization for gap year education in the US, as recognized by the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. Focused on four core areas, Research, Equity & Access, Resources, and Standards & Accreditation, GYA’s mission is to maximize the potential of young adults through accessible and meaningful gap year opportunities. GYA envisions a semester of gap year time, with access to college credit and financial aid, for every high school graduate. We strongly believe that our global and domestic communities will benefit from a population where each person takes appropriate responsibility for themselves and for their communities. Intentional gap year experiences have the power to instill that notion in today’s young adults. GYA emphasizes experiential education as a core component of gap years in that students carry what they learn during their gap year time throughout their lives. Learning extends far beyond single experiences. 

GYA’s Official Standards of Accreditation Include Fair Trade Learning

The Gap Year Association partners with the Community-Based Global Learning Collaborative (the Collaborative) to use their Fair Trade Learning (FTL) standards in GYA’s Official Standards of Accreditation. The Collaborative is self-defined as a network of educational institutions and community organizations, advancing decolonizing community-based learning and research for more just, inclusive, and sustainable communities. GYA adapts the Collaborative’s FTL standards in order to align with a unified movement for increasingly ethical community-based learning across networks in higher education, international education, and gap year education. Gap year counselors and program providers alike fill out a Fair Trade Learning (FTL) rubric in their GYA Accreditation applications. Beyond that, GYA encourages gap year education organizations to use FTL principles in their programs, before, during, and after applying for GYA Accreditation.

Fair Trade Learning in Practice: A Story from a Gap Year Association Accredited Program

“When you have a real relationship with a community, you follow what the community members want. We didn’t say ‘We want to do something for you, and here’s what we’re going to do.’ The community told us what they wanted.” – Adelaide Nalley

During the Moving Beyond Sustainability panel in the 2020 GYA Virtual Conference, Adelaide Nalley, a field instructor with a Gap Year Association Accredited Program, shares an example of building relationships of trust and common purposes within a community in Nicaragua over many years. The summary of her story below highlights many examples of Fair Trade Learning principles in practice. 

Years ago, Adelaide connected with a community in Nicaragua with a small Spanish school. Initially, members of the community were willing to provide Spanish language instruction and homestays to her students, but declined all offers of “service” as they didn’t support the hierarchical power-dynamics that this type of “giving” tends to reinforce. Instead, they suggested that students and community members engage in collaborative and egalitarian workshop exchanges. 

After years of building a relationship of trust, right before one of their visits, someone from the community told Adelaide that they were eager to learn about vermiculture, or worm composting, and implement a project in the community. The program provider Adelaide worked with, Where There Be Dragons, managed to obtain a last-minute vermiculture kit for the three-person instructor team and students to bring to Nicaragua as well as an instruction manual for students to review (and figure out how to translate!). Upon arrival, the students explained what they’d learned in Spanish, which the students were learning, to community members, who learned about vermiculture alongside the students. 

The long-term, evolving relationship between Adelaide, her team of co-instructors, and members of this community in Nicaragua echoes key Fair Trade Learning principles in practice, including:

  • Developing long-term relationships with community members, establishing trust over time
  • Following community members’ own goals for improvement, and their desire or lack thereof for assistance with those goals, on community members’ own terms
  • Participatory learning in which multiple stakeholders in the program learn together side-by-side 

Learn How Your Organization Can Engage with Fair Trade Learning Principles

The Community-Based Global Learning Collaborative and the Gap Year Association encourage any organization engaged in global community-based education to use Fair Trade Learning principles as tools for improving their partnerships. Begin exploring what this might look like for your organization by joining us for an interactive webinar on Fair Trade Learning on Wednesday, March 10th at 2pm EST. The goal of this webinar is to help your organization start and continue the conversation around ethical partnership building, using these principles as tools. 

This webinar on March 10th will include:

  • Introduction to the Gap Year Association, the Community Based Global Learning Collaborative, and Fair Trade Learning
  • How to Apply Fair Trade Learning to Ethical Partnership Building 
  • How You Can Become Involved in GYA’s Plan to Assist Organizations with Putting Fair Trade Learning Principles into Practice

We hope to see you there. All who are interested, be they from GYA’s or the Collaborative’s networks, or beyond, are welcome to join. Click this link to register! 

To begin to prime the pump prior to the webinar, look into these 12 Questions for All Stakeholders, written by Dr. Eric Hartman, Director of the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, which houses the Community-Based Global Learning Collaborative. 

 

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