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Community Development services Learning Project - Reporting on Project Learning

Community Development services Learning Project - Reporting on Project Learning

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Published by: learningforachange on Dec 15, 2009
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Community Development Service Learning Project
Reporting out on project learning November 2008 
1. Introduction
This paper reports out on the learning from project activities within the Canadian CommunityEconomic Development’s action research project called,
Community Development Service Learning 
.This project has been exploring ways in which people situate themselves as citizens within their learning experience and what happens when they do approach learning as a citizen of aneighbourhood, community or region. We have also been researching how individual and communitylearning contributes to social change.Over the past 1.5 years, we have completed the following project activities:
Development of a community development learning network advisory committeeA background discussion paper 2 tele-learning calls
Capacity building for community development learning within CED organizations4 training workshops (Haida Gwai’i, Chetwynd, Vancouver, Edmonton)6 testing sites for community development tool kits2 on-line forums for tester support5 tele-learning sessions for 20 organizations hosting CreateAction InternsCase studies on the testing experiences of diverese CED organizations
Relationship building with Canadian Association for Community Service LearningInitial conversations with new director Hosting a community – university dialogue
Organizational capacity bulidng for CCEDNet1 tele-learning call to build reflection-on-action into organizational operationsThis paper shares what we have learned from working with CED organizations as we explored howlearning contributes to social change at the local and regional level.
2. Action Research
Action research is about making change (action) and developing understanding (research) at thesame time. Action research begins by recognizing a problem or situation. This is followed by a plan,action, and then critical reflection. The people most affected by the change either facilitate the actionresearch project or they are engaged in the decisions around the action.Most often action research does this by using a cyclical or spiral process. The early cycles of actionresearch usually include three stages – plan, action and critical reflection. In the later cycles there is acontinuous refining of methods, data and interpretation of this data in light of the understandingdeveloped in the earlier cycles.Our activities have focussed on making change in the way many of us, as CED organizations, uselearning to help us achieve broader goals in our work. We have done this through conversations,resource and knowledge sharing, and through applied methods including using curriculum and toolkits on reflection-on-action and youth engagement.While we have been testing tools and sharing experiences and resources about learning with eachother we have also kept track of our learning. This has been done through our evaluation activities,
 
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which follow an outcomes measurement framework. This means we have a set of outcomes (changeswe want to happen because of people engaging in project activities) and measurable indicators(evidence that such changes are happening) that help us apply a rigorous process in documentinglearning and experience. At specific times in the project we pull back from activities and analyze thedata. As our understanding increases we adapt or adopt activities for the next stage of projectactivities.This paper captures our learning so far in the project. The following diagram is a work-in-progress aswe attempt to create a map of our understanding of how learning from experiences in communityleads to social change.
Community Economic Development
Informed Action
People “doing” local & regional work to addressopportunities, needs and issues
Knowledge-In-Action Lifelong & Lifewide Learning
Weaving theory in to action Growing our skills, knowledge &to create change at a systems level attitudes from within experiences inwork and our lives
Reflection-On-Action
Allowing us to create knowledge/theory fromour experiences and the experiences of others
Community Economic Development
3. Community Economic Development
Across Canada communities are organizing their work within comprehensive frameworks becausethey recognize that economic, environmental and social challenges are interdependent, complex andever changing. To be effective, solutions must be rooted in local knowledge and led by communitymembers. This approach is known as Community Economic Development (CED). CED promotesholistic approaches in addressing individual, community and regional levels recognizing that theselevels are interconnected. CED has emerged as an alternative to conventional approaches toeconomic development. It is founded on the belief that problems facing communities - unemployment,poverty, job loss, environmental degradation and loss of community control - need to be addressed ina holistic and participatory way
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www.cednet-rcdec.ca
 
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4. Learning in community settings
In this project we have been exploring how learning in community settings contributes to local peoplebeing better able to address problems facing their communities. This meant we had to reallyinvestigate what learning in community looks like. We’ve also had to sort through the different types of learning that exists in community. Early on in this project we looked at the locally developedprogramming of Storytellers’ Foundation including their community development learningprogramming and community development service learning. We also looked at community servicelearning, which is offered by many Canadian universities. We’ve worked hard to understand each of these programs and to see the similarities and differences between the programs. It has been difficultbecause the naming of programs is not necessarily a shared language but rather is a name thatmakes sense to different people in their own locality.After looking at this programming and engaging members of CCEDNet in discussions about learningin community we decided it wasn’t so much programming that we needed to look at but rather anapproach to CED work that included a learning lens. Influenced by the informal education approachesof Storyteller’s Foundation we started to talk about the notion of introducing tool kits that outlined thisapproach to other CED organizations. We hoped that by testing these learning tools the CEDpractitioners would develop a shared language. We also believed that many of these organizationswere using learning strategies already and this would be an opportunity for peer learning. We sensedthat the practitioners involved in the testing process were probably just not naming their work in thisway and so we anticipated that by giving a name to learning approaches we’d also heighten the intentof each practitioner to continue using learning as a tool for change.We had to work hard to show examples of informal education and different ways in which to createopportunities for informal learning within CED work. We found out early on in this project that whenpeople hear the word, learning, they tend to think only of formal education.We like the way that the
Canadian Council on Learning 
describes the role of learning in our lives:
Learning lies at the very core of human potential. It fosters our ability to think, create and solveproblems. It enables us to envision and embrace the kind of lives we want for our children andourselves. Beginning in early childhood and continuing throughout the adult years, learning isfundamental to our experience of being human and shapes virtually every aspect of our lives.
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This explanation of the role of learning has helped us sort through our thinking. It has also helped usname how we have used learning within this project. Community Economic Development work oftenhappens in disadvantaged neighbourhoods or communities. In these arenas people are usuallystruggling with dire, joined-up problems. By bringing a learning lens to the CED work we createopportunity for people to learn what they need when they need in a way that serves their level of understanding. For the most part we have focused on functional learning in this project. People usinglearning to meet their needs and help them address a problem faced by their community.Through the testing of tools and reflective practice, CED practitioners have described their differentapproaches to putting a process in place, locally, that ensures those who aren’t engaging in public lifehave support to do so. This project has, in a small way, provided support and resources for CEDpractitioners to offer a system of learning that nurtures and promotes curiosity, reflection and informedaction.As a project team we have used two frameworks to help us understand more about learning incommunity and to guide how we reflect and use our discoveries to inform the next phase of projectactivities.
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State of Learning in Canada: Toward a Learning Future, July 2008

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