I read a pretty good piece the other day by Randy Stoecker and Mary Beckman titled “Making Higher Ed Civic Engagement Work in the Community.”  I thought I’d post the .pdf here so others could read.

One of my favorite parts:

What is most important about the work of community development, however, is that it treats the community as a social system. Community development workers do not build houses for people. They do not dole out individual services to individuals. They instead engage the members of the community in determining what issues they want to take on, collectively developing plans and strategies for tackling those issues, and then even doing the actual work (Rubin & Rubin, 2007). We want to make clear that we are emphasing a form of community development that builds the leadership and power of those who have been most excluded and are the most vulnerable, not the form led by government and corporate officials. This is most similar to various community organizing approaches that grow from the work of Saul Alinsky (1969; 1971).

Within such a framework, two challenges face higher education service‐learning models that emphasize individuals serving individuals. The first is that giving services to individuals risks breaking their existing network bonds by changing the power and skill levels of community members randomly. As some members of the community receive services, and maybe then better jobs, they may leave the community. While the individual got help, the community as a whole was harmed. The second challenge is that simply providing services to individuals risks disempowering them. Effective civic engagement will support community members in harnessing their collective capacity to solve their own problems with minimal outsider assistance.