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Indigenous Elder Male

Community member Jake Fortin, a Sayisi Dene Elder, was recently consulted in Leaf Rapids

CSL committing to decolonize community engagement and service-learning

June 19, 2018 — 

Community Service-Learning has been awarded an Indigenous Initiatives Fund to produce a framework and resources for decolonizing community engagement and service-learning.

As the University community responds to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and the University’s strategic priorities to increase Indigenous achievement, experiential learning and community engagement, a growing number of students, staff and faculty at the University of Manitoba are engaging Indigenous communities in service-learning initiatives and other experiential learning opportunities. As a result, there has been an increased demand for Indigenous awareness and intercultural competency training. Current training typically focuses on topics like cultural difference and risk management, and while service-learning pedagogy is built on the principles of ethical community engagement, reciprocity and social justice, more work is needed to introduce explicitly decolonizing approaches and ways of working with Indigenous communities.

Community Service-Learning recognizes that it is time to move beyond typical engagement models with Indigenous communities, which often reinforce colonial power relations, and step into the shared work of decolonizing ourselves and our processes. In early consultations, Cristina Coc, a Q’eqchi’ Maya community leader, shared her insights on the reframing of this relationship: “You’re not here to come as experts; you’re not coming to serve, in the most colonial sense, the underprivileged. You’re coming to learn and take from an experience, and have a mutual, reciprocal exchange of experiences from a community and from people.” Everyone working with Indigenous communities needs a much richer set of knowledges, skills and relationships in order to meaningfully and humbly work and learn alongside Indigenous peoples and communities.

In collaboration with Indigenous community partners and University staff and faculty, Community Service-Learning is developing a decolonizing framework and resources that will help service-learning practitioners and participants work in more holistic and community-led ways with Indigenous partners — from engagement and relationship-building to program closure and evaluation. Community Service-Learning is committed to using the framework and resources to decolonize their own community engagement practices and service-learning pedagogies, and hopes that the framework and resources will be useful to other service-learning practitioners, students and Indigenous communities who want to work together in good ways.

During the Summer of 2018, Community Service-Learning is conducting a comprehensive literature review and consultation process with Indigenous partners and leaders, including Indigenous communities and organizations, Elders and Knowledge-Keepers and University of Manitoba staff and faculty. Community Service-Learning is seeking:

  • assistance in connecting with other service-learning practitioners and Indigenous community partners;
  • opportunities to hear insights and experiences with community engagement and service-learning; and
  • guidance on Indigenous pedagogies and culturally appropriate evaluation models.

In the Fall of 2018, Community Service-Learning will be bringing together University service-learning practitioners to share early findings from the consultations and gather feedback and input on the decolonizing framework and resources. During these events, Community Service-Learning hopes to:

  • gather insights into the good ways that the University community currently works with Indigenous community partners;
  • learn about the gaps or needs in University oversight for Indigenous community engagement and culturally appropriate evaluation models;
  • understand how Indigenous perspectives and pedagogies are integrated within service-learning programs, and the extent to which Indigenous communities deliver learning content to students;
  • learn about gaps or needs in Indigenous engagement training or supports provided to students, staff and faculty; and
  • facilitate collaboration and resource-sharing, including outreach for new community engagement training resources.

Read more about the decolonizing methodology, framework and resources on the new Decolonizing Community Engagement and Service-Learning webpage.

To contribute to the framework and resources, or learn more about this project, please contact:

Community Service-Learning, a part of Student Engagement and Success, facilitates student programs and provides faculty support for the University of Manitoba community. CSL works with local and international communities to offer experiential learning opportunities that help students connect with communities, develop their capacity for community and social justice work, and learn about their role in social change.

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