4th ISL Summit: The Question of Standards & Preparing for Deep Dialogue

The 4th International Service-Learning Summit is less than two weeks away.

Last week we shared a set of readings and videos suggested by our Monday plenary speakers. Today, we share some resources from our kick-off plenary speakers, a few documents related to global engagement standards, and reminders about the ways in which you can contribute to the continuously discursive, participatory ISL Summit experience.

Sunday Plenary

Sunday evening plenary speakers are Dr. R. Balasubramaniam (Balu), Founder & President, Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement, and Dr. Janice McMillan, Convener / co-founder, University of Cape Town Global Citizenship Program. They will provoke us to consider, “What must we learn from the Global South?” Participants interested in digging into this theme in advance may visit an article about Janice’s work with Tim Stanton, “Learning Service” in International Contexts: Partnership-based Service-Learning and Research in Cape Town, South Africa, in the Michigan Journal of Community Service-Learning. Through text, experience, and facilitated activity, Dr. McMillan interrogates the stories framing development. For instance, she draws on Adichie’s Danger of a Single Story in light of a Cape Town colleague’s reflection on that theme, prompting student reflections such as this critique of the Gates Foundation.

 The Question of Standards

At each of the last few ISL Summits, some of the discussion has turned to the question of standards. Could there be an agreed-upon set of best practice standards to help guide our work? As many participants have mentioned, oftentimes practitioners, administrators, and others who are new to this work may not be in a position to re-review all of the existing literature in this area. A few of us have worked with articulations of Fair Trade Learning as part of an effort to produced a shared standard set, and recently, two initiatives rooted outside of the US have made impressive progress on systematizing approaches to ethical engagement.

 Might this community of practitioners and researchers be interested in endorsing one of the above documents, developing a task force to integrate the best components of several existing standards, or better packaging and articulating the Fair Trade Learning standards?  As I say above, the question of standards has come up repeatedly. I share each of the resources linked above in the hope that they may be helpful on your own campuses, and with the hope that it will spark our thinking about what is appropriate and relevant for this community.

A Participatory Gathering  

Many thanks to those anonymous colleagues who have begun to add ideas on the Google Doc developed to support conversation communities during meals and receptions. If you would like to propose a reception or meal time table conversation on any given topic related to global learning and cooperative development, please propose that theme here. Simply enter your idea on the Google Doc at the link and we will organize table tents to allow people to gather on the theme during receptions and/or meal times.

We have created an additional Google Doc to help us investigate what has been a perennial question for the past few years: might the Summit series name move from International Service-Learning Summit to Global Service-Learning Summit. Through conversation with the conference coordinating committee, several or the facilitators, and ISL Series constituents over the years, as well as the prevailing scholarship, it seems like the momentum points toward a shift to “Global Service-Learning Summit.” At the suggestion of some of our co-facilitators and planners, I have posted a summary of this shift in Google Doc form and request two things from you:

  1. If you disagree with the narrative as presented, please comment and indicate how we might add to the summary shared there.
  2. Think about, “What is the loss?” if we proceed with a name change. If you can name specific losses that concern you, please add them at the bottom of the document, under the question, “What is the loss if the ISL Series becomes the GSL Series?”

As presenters know, we have designed this Summit to maintain its strong tradition as a participatory gathering. We have therefore worked hard not to fill session time slots with several presenters on a panel. Instead, we have arranged the Summit such that one or at most two different programs or research projects are presented, before opening the floor for dialogue. We remind presenters and participants to consider strategies for advancing shared dialogue throughout each session. In addition to opening the floor for questions, and following the dialogue where those questions lead, presenters and participants might also consider,

  • What questions would you like to think about with other participants?
  • What issues are you currently grappling with, that might benefit from additional perspectives from other institutions and organizations?
  • What was a critical question during your community-campus partnership journey, that you continue to revisit and grapple with? 

Eric Hartman is Executive Director of the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship at Haverford College.

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