In the drive to connect with communities, we sometimes forget what is our real purpose. And we sometimes get so buried in the details that we neglect the other creatures in the forest. In our work at Bryant University, we have several projects going on without much coordination. In some cases, the atypical faculty members works to develop a sustaining and changing relationship with a community partner, but in too many cases, these relationships are transactional and even those take quite a bit of energy and effort for all parties.
What I have been thinking about for a while and what I am developing into a proposal for a book is the relationships (or more to the point, the lack of) among practitioners of service learning and social entrepreneurship on campuses. I have a foot in both worlds and wonder how students see what it is we teach them. It is of necessity only a slice of what they will need in life but are we cutting this even finer than we need to? In other words, are we providing students with just one view of social and civic engagement instead of helping them understand and appreciated all the ways in which they may live a socially engaged life—volunteering, philanthropy, advocacy, voting, conscious consumption, leadership, civic action, social movements, witnessing, story-telling, social entrepreneurship and others. Perhaps, it is fortunate student who gets a sense of all this in his education but it may be the case that even on campuses where student engagement is high and the projects they work on are well organized and beneficial that students may be getting just a part of the picture. So, this idea of a social change toolbox has been on my mind. How to develop it. How to teach it. How to marshall our community partners and learn about this together.