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! Academy of Management Learning & Education, 2011, Vol. 10, No. 1, 58 76.


Sustainable Development
Through Service Learning:
A Pedagogical Framework and
Case Example in a Third
World Context
Wake Forest University
Because of changes in awareness, student values, and social responsibility, universities
have an increasing interest in developing meaningful courses on sustainable community
development and social enterprise. I suggest that the nature of these courses and the
complexity of the issues are best addressed using a service-learning pedagogical
approach. Two faculty members and eight students spent 1 month studying and
experiencing poverty, malnutrition, education with dire lack of resources, and other
social dilemmas and explored how one brings sustainable change, owned by the
indigenous community. This case example of a business elective about sustainable
community development in a third world country serves to illustrate the framework for
delivering such content. The unique characteristics of sustainable community
development are integrated with the strengths of service learning into a framework that
may be used by others who might develop similar courses. Drawing on both literatures,
the framework provides a powerful opportunity to experience the context in which
development happens while learning the content.

2009; Gloeckler, 2008). In fact, the millennial generation is more interested in making a difference in
their world in terms of social responsibility than
many previous generations. In business schools
around the country, clubs that focus on social enterprise are replacing finance and marketing clubs
as the most popular among students (Gloeckler,
2008). In addition, the pedagogical approach of service learning is growing in popularity across all
areas of education including business education
(Klink & Athaide, 2004; Tomkovick, Lester, Flunker,
& Wells, 2008).
There has been unprecedented growth in and
popularity of the field of sustainable development
since it was originally defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987
(Huesemann, 2003). It has been embraced by the
international business community, including the
International Chamber of Commerce. In fact, several governments, including the United States,
have established organizations for sustainable de-

The essence of creating sustainable social

change lies in cultivating linkages between
ecology, economy and social systems to
facilitate community development such that
indigenous communities increase their
capacity to address their own issues.
Fowler, 2000
Interest in sustainable development, along with
related topics such as microenterprise and social
enterprise development, is growing rapidly in
business schools responding to a generation very
interested in social responsibility (Benn & Dunphy,

I would like to especially acknowledge and thank my colleague

and dear friend, Jane Albrecht, for her partnership in developing and facilitating this adventure.
Special thanks also to Wake Forest Universitys Pro Humanitate
Center, funded by the Lilly Endowments Program for the Theological Exploration of Vocation for funding part of the costs of
the program described herein.

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velopment (i.e., Presidents Council on Sustainable

I focus here on one aspect of sustainable development, social, or community development, which
is primarily the focus of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) or nongovernmental development
organizations (NGDOs). The numbers of these organizations registered in industrialized countries
has grown explosively in the last 2 decades, and
the money spent on them has more than doubled
during that time (Edwards & Hulme, 2002). In addition to the unparalleled growth in numbers of organizations that are engaged in development
around the world, some of these individual NGOs
have experienced enormous growth, as well. For
instance, Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) has over 12,000 employees and
serves more than 3 million people (Edwards &
Hulme, 2002). Business schools in particular, and
universities generally, are adding courses on social entrepreneurship, microenterprise development, and sustainable development to meet the
leadership need demanded by the growth in this
sector and to address Generation Ys interest in
social responsibility (Eldridge, 2008; Gloeckler,
This growing emphasis on including sustainable community development projects and courses
in business curriculum begs the question of how to
effectively teach the principles of sustainable community development (referred to as SCD hereafter).
Despite the burgeoning growth and rapid development of offerings related to SCD, a model of effective pedagogy in the area is elusive. A search
across disciplines for a model of how to effectively
teach students the necessary principles and practices spans community development, social work,
management, psychology, engineering, and education. In fact, in recognition of the significance of
the topic, the 2004 Engineering Education in Sustainable Development (EESD) conference initiated
the Barcelona declaration, requiring that all engineering students must have skills in SCD (Schneider, Leydens, & Lucena, 2008). Still, even engineering educators criticize themselves for lack of
effective pedagogy on the topic (Easterly, 2006).
By comparison, business education on SCD is in
its infancy. Although the Journal of Management
Education has published two special issues on
sustainability (2003 and 2009), the focus of both was
primarily on environmental education and greening issues across management curricula. In addition, the Academy of Management 2007 Annual
Meeting theme revolved on sustainability, and the
Academy of Management Learning & Education
has called for a special issue on sustainability in


2010, but again these focus on environmental

My work here falls at the intersection of three
burgeoning fields: business education, SCD, and
service learning. Drawing on the literatures of SCD
and social enterprise to uncover the key principles
and utilizing a service-learning orientation to best
sustain student knowledge and commitment, I
present a framework that can be studied and replicated. Finally, I present a case example of a
course on sustainable social enterprise development in a third world country to illustrate the
In doing so, my work contributes to the business
education literature by providing one model of effective pedagogy in SCD. It is unique in that it
consolidates the SCD literature into a comprehensive framework. In addition, it adds significantly to
the literature on service learning by integrating it
with the SCD literature, as both are increasingly
important to business education. Finally, I present
pedagogical and programmatic issues that are
critical to the success of such courses. In the following I present key definitions and principles of
SCD and social enterprise and use these to build
the conceptual framework.
Sustainable development, although a widely used
term and idea, has multiple definitions and provokes varied reactions (Hopwood, Mellor, &
OBrien, 2005; Porter & Cordoba, 2009). It is often
considered to be related to environmental issues
and carries economic and political baggage from
multiple constituencies (Giddings, Hopwood, &
OBrien, 2002). Rather than dive into such a morass,
I carefully limit the use of the term to include
interventions that increase the capability of people, and the organizations instigating the interventions, to respond to community needs in a particularly agile and adaptive way that addresses
current needs of the poor and does not endanger
future capacity (Fowler, 2000; Schneider et al., 2008;
Steinemann, 2003; World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987).
Fowler calls this type of sustainable response to
issues of poverty a virtuous spiral involving
three dimensions: external impact, human and financial resources, and continuous regeneration
that keeps an organization healthy, relevant, and
viable in a turbulent environment over a long period of time. A related concept that involves similar
issues is social enterprise. It combines both social
and economic activity to achieve three key objec-


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tives: economic viability, sustainability, and social

change (Lucas & Vardanyan, 2005). In fact, many
nonprofit organizations engage in social enterprise strategies to expand their organizational capacity and to ensure their financial sustainability.
In these endeavors, they are not primarily interested in generating individual profits but in promoting social change in underdeveloped areas
and promoting sustainability and job growth (Ersing, Loeffler, Tracy, & Onu, 2007; Lucas & Vardanyan, 2005).
Limiting our focus to this definition of sustainable development (SCD), I identify five principles
considered seminal to this type of work. These
principles are the result of an extensive literature
review of SCD. Some works focus on a subset of
these principles, but in digging into the literature,
I found these five encapsulate the overarching
principles investigated throughout. They are repeatedly found, sometimes under different titles,
but they are used here as a unifying framework to
draw the pertinent literature together in a comprehensive way. They represent the keys that are suggested by various authors as critical to the effectiveness of the SCD effort. I was unable to locate a
single cohesive framework, so the first significant
contribution of this paper is identifying these five
seminal principles that tie the recommendations in
this literature together.
Much of this work is accomplished by organizations of varying sizes and scopes that enter a poor,
traumatized, or at-risk area and work to bring relief or renewal. Examples include the poorest, underdeveloped communities in countries, such as
Haiti and Nicaragua, war-ravaged areas, such as
Uganda, or disaster stricken communities, such
as Sri Lanka. Nongovernmental development organizations (NGDOs) are nonprofit organizations
dedicated to ending poverty and injustice in developing countries (Fowler, 2000: xiii). These organizations are said to touch 1520% of the poor and
marginalized population of developing countries
(Fowler, 2000) and often are responding to the human need they have identified in impoverished
communities. They are vehicles for providing
healthcare, food, education, and basic provisions
as well as being vehicles for democratization and
social reform (Edwards & Hulme, 2002). So, these
interventions provide for immediate needs through
training and resources, the first of the five principles. The literature used here presents the process
by which these organizations drive change, recovery, and health.
However, to be sustainable, there is much
greater complexity than merely providing resources to meet specific needs. Indigenous people


must be involved and ultimately take ownership of

solutions (Ersing et al., 2007; Fowler, 2000; Schneider et al., 2008); awareness about all three dimensions of the virtuous spiral (impact, resources,
and regeneration) must be raised; and, finally, capacity and flexibility must be built so that when
the NGDO pulls out of the area, the people are
empowered to sustain the operations and processes. These issues that create sustainable solutions to community needs make up the next three
principles of SCD: trusting partnerships, community ownership and empowerment, and reflective,
learning organizations.
Sustainable community development (SCD) initiatives involve tangible assistance such as food,
housing, and education that meets immediate
needs, and they enhance the capacity for people to
act on their own behalf, as they have some degree
of ownership or control of the system. Moving beyond meeting immediate needs to a sustainable
community-owned solution necessarily takes considerable time, as successful organizations enter a
community and establish trusting partnerships
with the population they intend to serve. Successful organizations enable indigenous people to set
the agenda and empower them to work cooperatively to develop solutions that enhance the capability of the people while not depleting resources
for the future (Schneider, Leydens, & Lucena, 2008).
The task is not simply to build the capability of
a community or group to manage or maintain
the benefits of a particular input or investment,
such as a school, clinic, credit fund . . . Making
change endure means going beyond the capacity required for this type of immediate necessity
and action. The challenge is to foster organizational resilience founded on a link between
sustainable insight and resulting action
(Fowler, 2000: 18).
Empowerment comes through the growth in awareness and the enabling of local people to take action on their own behalf. Nongovernmental development organizations do not bring a solution from
an industrialized nation to the people, but rather
make the indigenous people the critical force for
change in their situations.
Ultimately, the NGDO may move operations or
leave the country, and indigenous people must
have the capacity to deal with issues independently. To accomplish this set of lofty goals requires an organization to adopt a flexible learning
orientation (Taylor, 1998). According to Fowler
(2000), sustainability in these unstable environments requires ongoing regeneration, that is,



learning. He suggests that a learning organization

is one that develops a spiraling process of action,
reflection, awareness, and adaptation (new action). Reflection plays a critical role in this spiraling process, and knowledge must be translated
into changes that increase adaptability.
The fifth principle found in this literature is the
ultimate effectiveness measure of development organizations: Is the increased capacity able to sustain itself and grow once the organization leaves or
reduces its flow of resources? The mantra of many
organizations is that their endgame is to work
themselves out of a job although they often become politically and financially entrenched and
fail to enact their own rhetoric (Edwards, 1999; Edwards & Hulme, 2002). In international development, organizations originating from the developed world are called North. They bring
tremendous resources and theoretical knowledge,
but the final measure of whether the work they
have achieved in facilitating capacity building in
local communities is whether the citizens who
come to own the process and make critical decisions are actually autonomous and capable when
the Northern organization withdraws or changes
focus (Fowler, 1995, 2000).
Now that I have established the presence of significant and growing interest among students and
faculty in business schools to develop curricula in
SCD and have laid out its five critical principles, I
return to the issue of how to effectively teach these
principles to business students.
Although there is no widely accepted pedagogical model in the field, there are some common
arguments about how to effectively learn SCD. The
core of the development movement focuses on education as a tool for SCD. Educating the community about issues aids them in identifying problems and potential solutions (Schwartz, 1978;
Taylor, 2008). This tool is sometimes called transformational learning (McGonigal, 2005; Taylor,
2008; Van der Veen, 2003). One significant article
examined three views of systems theories and
their implications for sustainability education
(Porter & Cordoba, 2009). Although they focused on
environmental sustainability, the authors recommendations are applicable, to some degree, to SCD
as well. Specifically, they recommend taking a systems approach to sustainability education and define the appropriate applications of three different
systems approaches. For the types of changes
involved in developing sustainable change in


poverty-stricken areas, they recommend an interpretative approach. The three key processes of this
approach are awareness, appreciation, and ethical
action, and they are evident in the framework presented below.
There is also some literature that addresses educating professionals in the development field.
This work emphasizes the need to reflect on significant development work experience to better understand how to mobilize and empower communities (Ersing, Loeffler, Tracy, & Onu, 2007). Authors
suggest that the nature of SCD requires direct
participation of community members affected and
necessitates experience to understand capacity
building of poor and marginalized groups (Alvord,
Brown, & Letts, 2002; Ersing et al., 2007; Green &
Haines, 2002).
The small amount of published work on teaching
SCD to students who have not yet survived the
negative conditions and do not have significant
development work experience stresses the importance of seeking engagement from all stakeholders and understanding community needs and
wants (Schneider et al., 2008). It also stresses use of
problem-based learning and decision making in a
real context rather than by theories and cases
(Steinemann, 2003). In fact, some recognize the
value in theory-based learning, but criticize its inability to equip students with the necessary skills
to maneuver the difficult and complex tasks of
reconstruction, recovery, and reconciliation in developing countries (Chantrill & Spence, 2002).
These authors emphasize the values of practicum
courses to give liberal arts students hands-on experience in difficult contexts where they can collect live information, analyze data, and make
meaningful recommendations for specific actions
(Kotval, 2003). Similarly, business students need to
be exposed to the ambiguity, difficulty, and messiness of development work, especially in a third
world context. The efficiency king that often resides in business curriculum is difficult to find, or
even defend in this context. High-quality service
learning addresses these needs because it facilitates critical thinking development through experiential learning (Richardson, 2006). Through actual experience, students learn effective concepts
and strategies and understand the difficulties of
Todays college students are typically interested
in voluntary activity and community involvement.
Service learning is an increasingly popular and
powerful pedagogical tool that pairs voluntary
community activity with course content, but service learning is far more than merely facultydirected volunteerism. Rather, it is carefully de-


Academy of Management Learning & Education

signed, deliberate integration of course content

with service to the community (Kenworthy-URen,
2003). In fact, many who write about service learning describe it as a type of experiential or action
learning (e.g., Butin, 2006; Godfrey, Illes, & Berry,
2005; Jacoby, 1996; Lester, Tomkovick, Wells,
Flunker, & Kickul, 2005; Morgan & Streb, 2001). Business education is one of the disciplines that has
increasingly been using service learning as a pedagogical means to enhance student learning in
various classes, including accounting, management, marketing, and finance (Klink & Athaide,
2004; Tomkovick et al., 2008). In addition to the
popularity of service-learning practice, the literature about service learning is burgeoning, as noted
by a 2005 special issue in the Academy of Management Learning & Education.
Business education has been criticized by some
for falling far short of preparing graduates for life,
particularly life as responsible citizens who contribute in meaningful and thoughtful ways to enhance society (e.g., Gordon & Howell, 1959; Pfeffer
& Fong, 2002; Porter & McKibbin, 1988; Steiner &
Watson, 2006). They have suggested that business
education has taken the heart out of education.
In response, some have suggested that service
learning is an, if not the most, effective tool available to business schools (Bradfield, 2009; Godfrey
et al., 2005; Papamarcos, 2002; Steiner & Watson,
There are primarily two mechanisms that make
service learning an effective business education
tool: process and outcomes. First, service learning
provokes a mental process that enhances learning.
Biological research has demonstrated that the
brain retains facts and complex ideas most easily
when knowledge is linked with experience (Johnson, 2003; Steiner & Watson, 2006). Therefore, when
instructors create a thoughtful service-learning environment, we can expect that our students will
understand complex material better and will retain it longer.
Second, service learning promotes development
of important student outcomes of concern to business schools. More specifically, research has demonstrated that service learning leads to enhanced
critical thinking and problem solving (Eyler &
Giles, 1999; Lester et al., 2005); civic engagement
and volunteerism (Dewey, 1938; Langseth & Plater,
2004; Tomkovicket al., 2008); social responsibility
and values development (Eyler, Giles, Stenson, &
Gray, 2000; Lester et al., 2005; Papamarcos, 2005);
and self-efficacy and confidence (Giles & Eyler,
1994; Papamarcos, 2005; Tucker & McCarthy, 2001).
Therefore, as a means for learning about SCD,
service learning facilitates a process whereby stu-


dents are more apt to remember the five critical

principles. Pedagogical literature suggests that
when students engage in providing resources to
the poor, and where they actually work in partnership with indigenous people and NGDOs, they
come to understand and to be more likely to remember these principles. Furthermore, experiencing empowerment, the value of reflecting on experiences, and searching for answers about the local
ownership and sustainability of interventions are
powerful learning tools as opposed to simply reading these principles or listening to lectures about
In addition to these issues of pedagogical process, through service learning, students learn to
grapple with the complexity of problem solving in
a real-world context (Salimbene, Buono, Lafarge, &
Nurick, 2005; Papamarcos, 2005). The nonprofit
setting adds complexity because of resource constraints, ambiguous ideals, and multiple stakeholder demands (Kenworthy-URen, 2003). Therefore, students values and attitudes toward people
living in poverty, for example, are changed forever
through the experience. They are not likely to forget the material after the final exam because the
service-learning experience creates a level of engagement that changes students and gives them a
foundation from which to act in the future. In summary, business educators can expect that service
learning is an effective tool for developing critical
thinking skills, promoting learning and retaining
critical knowledge, and developing values that
contribute to civic engagement and corporate
These two fields lead to a powerful learning experience when they are combined. The framework
presented here capitalizes on the content of SCD in
the context of a pedagogical approach that brings
enhanced learning as well as personal change.
Note that the service-learning pedagogy is not only
an effective transmitter of SCD knowledge, but
also its methodology models SCD to students. Table 1 summarizes the principles of SCD and shows
the corollaries between them and critical elements
of service learning.
The following arguments present critical elements
of effective service-learning courses gleaned from
the burgeoning literature.
Service learning courses are those that emphasize academic rigor and the integration of real-



world course projects where students produce tangible, professional products for use in the local
community as they work with and learn from organizations designed to serve community needs
(Kenworthy-URen, 2000: 59). To be most effective in
achieving the desired student outcomes, servicelearning courses must integrate rigorous course
content with real work that is meaningful to both
students and members of the service organization
(Cushman, 2002; Godfrey et al., 2005; KenworthyURen, 2003). This means that an effective servicelearning course is not only serving the community
but that students are actually learning important
theoretical content to be able to identify community issues and to understand best how to create
sustainable community change. This issue of service learning may be linked to several SCD principles, such as partnership, community ownership,
and departure because these principles are part of
the content of such a course. However, this issue of
service learning is most closely linked with the
first principle, training and resources made accessible to the poor, because students actually acquire knowledge that enhances their understanding and ability to work effectively within the
community. They come to understand what tangible resources and services are beneficial to impoverished communities and individuals.

Student Voice and Ownership

Taking the meaningfulness of the work a step further, Morgan and Streb (2001) note the necessity of
student voice and ownership of the experience.
They demonstrated that when students are given a
high degree of voice, rather than faculty overengineering the service portion of the course, they developed self-esteem, political engagement, and
tolerance toward different groups of people. Others have also stressed the significance of student
voice in designing a project (Beyer, 1996; Dewey,
1938). By voice they mean that students should
have real responsibilities, challenging tasks, and
be given latitude to help plan their project(s) and to
make important decisions (Morgan & Streb, 2001;
Salimbene et al., 2005). This important dimension
of effective service-learning methodology both
models and teaches the principle of community
ownership and empowerment. Students must have
ownership of their learning experience to best retain the knowledge and acquire the desired character traits. In addition, they learn the power of
giving voice or ownership to community members
when experiencing the power of their own voices
in their project development.


In addition to being integrated and realistic,
service-learning courses must involve reciprocity,
reflection, and explicit attention to moral imperatives such as civic engagement. Reciprocity means
that both the student and the agents of the organization benefit from the relationship. This reciprocal benefit is critical to the initial and sustained
success of the experience (Cushman, 2002; Kenworthy-URen, 2003; Kenworthy-URen & Peterson,
2005). Faculty must be engaged with the organization and understand their needs and the appropriateness of student involvement in the organization. When the match is effective, faculty gain the
trust and understanding of the organization and
coach students to create a reciprocal arrangement
that benefits both (Cushman, 2002). This reciprocity
in the academic relationship with NGOs and communities is most similar to the partnership principle of SCD. In both situations the newcomer (either
the faculty and student or the NGDO) must develop
trust and understanding so that the newcomer is
not misperceived as the outsider coming in with
prescriptive, preconceived solutions that may not
fit the context.
An example of the significance of reciprocity
comes from one of the NGDO directors in the Nicaragua project described below. He told about
American relief organizations spending millions of
dollars on solar-powered ovens and training for
poor refugees in disaster-worn Nicaraguan communities. The solar-powered ovens were highly
efficient, ecologically superior, and dramatically
healthier for the women who traditionally spent
entire days gathering wood and cooking over open
fires. These women often died early of lung diseases and were unable to devote time to more
lucrative and sustainable entrepreneurial efforts.
The relief workers saw solar-powered ovens as an
obvious solution. However, as soon as relief workers left, the ovens returned to disuse and were
eventually completely discarded because relief
workers had failed to understand the culture of the
women who saw significance in the relationships
they maintained with each other throughout the
days while visiting around the fires. They also
gained a sense of worth from providing for their
family and community by spending their entire
days preparing and cooking meals. The relief
workers did not understand the important principles of community ownership and partnership. In a
similar way, students who are engaged in a trusting partnership with faculty who develop meaningful relationships with the NGDOs have a model
of reciprocity and engagement when both parties


Academy of Management Learning & Education

reach an agreement about meaningful work students can provide.

Reflection is probably the most consistently discussed element of effective service learning. It
seems to be universally agreed that reflection is a
critical part of the learning in these experiences
(Cushman, 2002; Eyler, 2002; Eyler & Giles, 1999;
Kenworthy-URen, 2003; Mabry, 1998; Steiner &
Watson, 2006). In fact, Eyler (2002) goes on to say
that it is through reflection that academic study is
attached to the deeper understanding of social
problems. It is here that students develop the cognitive ability to identify, frame, and resolve unstructured social problems (Batchelder & Root,
1994; Boss, 1994; Eyler & Giles, 1999; Eyler & Halteman, 1981). Therefore, the opportunities for structured reflection are critical to capturing the power
of service learning.
The call to reflection and creating a learning
orientation in a NGDO is strongly related to the
significance of reflection in effective servicelearning courses. In fact, both Fowler (2000) and
Taylor (1998) develop a model of action, reflection,
awareness, and adaptation in SCD, which draws
on Deweys (1938) model of reflection and learning
often central in service-learning approaches.
Moral Values
Finally, many have talked about the significance
of service learning in developing students values,
such as civic engagement, appreciation for diversity, and social engagement (i.e., Godfrey et al.,
2005; Lester et al., 2005; Papamarcos, 2005), but
Steiner and Watson (2006) found that servicelearning courses fell short of this moral imperative
if the instructor failed to speak explicitly about
civic engagement or other values. Therefore, to
gain the most from the experience, faculty must
clearly communicate with students about the values they hope to develop as students engage with
the community. The linkage here is to the sustainability of the community capacity building when
the NGO leaves or changes direction. The aim is
that the community members who have been empowered will sustain and continue the development efforts. In the same way, when the servicelearning course is over, an important measure of
effectiveness is whether student values and understanding have changed so that career choices and
commitment to SCD are sustained. Again, service
learning is an experiential approach that creates a
strong association with the material and enhances


memory and recall. Therefore, it models sustainability after the end of the course, or resources, as
well as teaches pertinent values.
In what follows I present a course taught in Nicaragua titled Social Enterprise Leadership in a
Developing Country. It is intended to illustrate the
connections between service learning and SCD
principles and to evaluate the effectiveness of the
framework. The column on the far right in Table 1
includes examples of student deliverables from
the course that fit with the principles of SCD and
elements of service learning.
The image of La Chureca is ingrained in
my memory, an image that epitomizes the
stark inequalities between the developed
and developing worlds. I was impassioned
by my experience . . . [which] solidified my
interest in a career involving sustainable
development and the advancement of
human rights.
Junior student
What is drastically different across the
world is not essential humanity, but
the conditions under which we live.
Unbelievable disparities exist in the
economic situationsit is this, more than
anything else, that has led me to form a
philosophy of charity.
Senior student
These quotes come from students who completed a
service-learning course, Social Enterprise Leadership in a Developing Country. They demonstrate
the power of service learning for such a course.
The course looked at economic and human development issues in developing countries. Eight undergraduate students and I read theoretical work
and studied cases of organizations involved in
these development efforts. The course was focused
on the work of NGDOs in impoverished communities and the complexities of making such work
sustainable. In addition to reading and discussing
the literature, we engaged in the development
community in a third world country, Nicaragua,
where students worked in various NGDOs identifying and solving real problems, participated in
class discussions about readings and experiences,
engaged with expert speakers in the field, and
reflected on content and experiences to embed
their learning.
The following case serves as an example for




Corollaries Between Significant Issues of SCD and Service Learning and the Model Course
Sustainable Community Development

Service Learning


Community Result

Training and
resources made
accessible to the

Community understands
issues and learns to
solve problems

Rigorous course
content integrated
with real work

Student understands and

retains content

Initial research project

related to issue in
context and final project

Gains trust and builds

relationship for joint



Enhances self-esteem,
awareness, ability to
advocate for self


Faculty developed
relationships with NGO
directors and set up
student involvement
Final projects identified and
designed by students

Reflection; learning

Develops flexible, agile

organization to resolve
future problems in
Sustained change in
community and
enhanced capacity to
address future issues


Gains trust and

understanding of
organization and
Develop self-esteem,
political engagement,
tolerance for
Develops cognitive ability
to identify, frame, and
resolve unstructured
Sustained change in
student character

Student evaluations and

subsequent career and
volunteer plans

Departure of NGDO


Student Result

Explicitly state moral

values to be gained
from experience

illustrative and evaluative purposes of the framework presented above. The course was part of a
program located in and focused on issues relevant
to Nicaragua. Nicaragua is the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, with an average
per capita annual income of $1023 (U.S. Department of State). Over 50% of Nicaraguans fall below
the poverty line (Library of Congress). One hundred NGOs are registered in Nicaragua with thousands of other international NGOs addressing
issues of hunger, poverty, malnutrition, homeownership, entrepreneurship and small business
development, child labor, ethical business practices, community development, adoption and
child abandonment, and many others (http://app.
Many universities are developing programs and
partnerships abroad and are encouraging students
to experience study and service learning in other
cultures. In fact, in Managua alone, we were aware
of five other U.S. campuses that have developed
study abroad or service-learning programs partnered with NGOs in the area. Our university has
placed priority on development of study abroad
and significant learning experiences in other cultures. Figure 1 presents a flowchart depicting the
process of developing such a program. This flowchart may be replicated in numerous and diverse
settings and is used here to illustrate the process
of development in this particular case example.

Example from Model Course

Journals, reflection papers

To work most effectively, the course(s) must be

supported by the university. At the beginning of
the process, the college or university takes the
leadership role to identify appropriate faculty as
well as the location and focus. Ideally, the university or college hires an in-country liaison, who
makes appropriate local connections and understands the culture and expectations of the area.
The flowchart depicts who takes the leadership
role in each step of the development-and-delivery
process. Although some parts of the process occur
sequentially, the arrowheads also depict those
parts of the process that occur simultaneously.
The university has received significant donor
support to develop service-learning programs in
Nicaragua. In just 2 short years, the university has
engaged business faculty and MBA students in
small business training and consulting in Managua through several short seminars. Also, Spanish, biology, health and exercise science, and medical school faculty have visited to assess the
potential for developing courses and research
projects in Nicaragua. As depicted in the flowchart,
identifying the country and focus and appropriate
faculty is not necessarily a sequential process, but
may be recursive and evolutionary in collaboration with faculty and administrators and friends of
the university. The focus of the universitys presence in Nicaragua is on service-learning opportunities rather than study abroad, and it offers a


Academy of Management Learning & Education

great deal of support for the faculty developing the

programs, including staff support in country, funding for an advance-planning trip, and some scholarships for students choosing to participate.
A team of two faculty members developed and
led the service-learning program, which consisted
of two 3-credit courses delivered partially at a U.S.
college campus and ending with 3 weeks on location in Nicaragua. One faculty member from Romance Languages taught a humanities course
(The Writer and Society in Central America), and
the other, a business management faculty member, taught a management elective course (Social
Enterprise Leadership in a Third World Country).
All students in the program were enrolled in both
courses. The only prerequisite for applying to the
program for course credit included passing an Intermediate Spanish course with at least a grade of
What follows are descriptions of several issues
critical to the success of the program and lessons
learned. I end with links between the course and
the framework described above. The intention of
the design was that every aspect of the experience
would facilitate learning and reflection through
engagement. The lessons learned presented in the
following are captured in Appendix A.
Country Setup and Planning
The faculty traveled to Nicaragua 2 months before
the program began to make arrangements. Neither
faculty member had been to Nicaragua previously
and neither had relationships with indigenous
people or local NGDOs. The staff person in Managua had developed relationships with several
NGDO directors. The students had not been selected for the program yet, so faculty met NGDO
directors to build a catalog of potential opportunities and to discuss the goals of the program. No
promises were made to organizations at this time
because the fit between student abilities and interests and the needs of the organizations were
critical to the success of the program.
In addition to discussions with directors of various organizations, the trip included visits to many
potential housing locations, viewing potential
sites for an opening dinner, locating various cultural opportunities for students, and exposure to
the culture and practices of the country (i.e., how to
exchange money, safety, eating opportunities, cultural norms, transportation, etc.). Having the staff
person in the country familiar enough with the city
to provide ideas and guidance and set up appointments was critical to success. The lessons learned
from this planning trip include the importance of


(1) identifying a local contact to help develop key

partnership relationships and provide options for
housing, restaurants, etc.; (2) getting to know as
much as possible about the country and culture
before taking students. This is helpful in answering their questions and alleviating concerns of
parents; and (3) establishing relationships with
NGDOs that may serve as sites for the experience
as a first step in the reciprocal relationship essential to effective service learning. (See Appendix B
for a checklist of important tasks to accomplish on
a preplanning trip.)
As mentioned above, research has demonstrated
that successful service-learning programs involve
autonomy and ownership for students (Beyer, 1996;
Morgan & Streb, 2001; Salimbene et al., 2005); therefore, to maximize each students learning impact
and integration into the culture, no more than two
students were placed at each organization. We
sought organizations that had a desire and need
for students and wanted them involved in meaningful, critical work. In many cases, finding shortterm projects for students in service-learning
courses is more work than it is a value for nonprofit
organizations (Vernon & Foster, 2002). It was very
important to the successful learning environment
that we create a mutually beneficial relationship
with organizations where students would work for
3 weeks. Therefore, during the planning trip, faculty members told directors we dont simply want
students to come and do service here for 3 weeks
like some short-term groups you have experienced.
We would like them to make a meaningful contribution through an independent project that identifies a significant need for the organization and
develops an action plan to address it. What could
our students engage in here that would cause you
to say at the end of their time Wow! We would not
have accomplished (blank) without them.
After developing a catalog of opportunities, we
selected the students. The selection process for
admission to the experience included screening
students for fit, language ability, and commitment
to the ideals of the program. The application included a written essay about interest in the program and previous voluntary and cross-cultural
experiences and an interview with the two faculty
We worked to match student interests and abilities
with organizations missions and needs. For instance, one student owned horses and had volunteered in her community at a riding stable for underprivileged children. She was a natural fit for a center



that provided therapy for disabled Nicaraguan children, including equestrian therapy. Another student
was not interested in being placed in a Christian
organization, so we were limited to nonsectarian organizations. We found that while working on selecting students, we were continuing to develop incountry relationships and logistics (see Fig. 1).
The matching process with students and organizations continued until we found appropriate
placements for each. In addition, solidifying details in the country alleviated concerns of students
and their parents. Ultimately, we found five placements for eight students. Table 2 presents a summary of these. The lessons learned in the placementmatching process included the following: (1) It is
critical to have an open mind for potential opportunities and to be flexible in matching opportunities
with student interests and skills; and (2) if possible,
try to place students in different organizations,
where they will have richer experiences because
they are in small groups and cannot hide.
Local Lodging
The criteria were safety (in many third world countries, properties employ private guards), Internet
access for students and faculty, meeting space
available to conduct class, eating and entertainment options for students in the evenings, and
proximity to student placements so that transportation did not consume more than 1 hour per day. In
order to diminish stress in a situation that could be


overwhelming to students, we wanted to have as

many modern conveniences (i.e., hot showers, electricity, clean drinking water) as possible, without
living extravagantly.
In addition, there was benefit to being in a small,
family-run facility that offered interaction between
students and employees and local residents. The
selected hotel was walled and had 24-hour guards,
was located within safe walking distance of numerous restaurants and entertainment establishments, and was less than 30 minutes drive from
each of the five placements. Two generations of a
family lived on the premises and managed the
small hotel. They had been exiled to the United
States during the civil war and had returned to
Nicaragua in the last 15 years, so they served as
interesting class speakers and resources for students in learning the history and culture of Nicaragua. The lessons learned in selecting a facility to
serve as home base included the facts that (1) location is critical to provide opportunities for students and faculty to both interact in the local culture and live relatively stress free; and (2) all
constituents are also interested in safety and
health, so take the measures necessary to assure
faculty, students, and parents that these issues
have been given significant care.
This issue proved to be one our greatest challenges. There were options of renting a single

Flowchart of Course Development and Delivery Process


Academy of Management Learning & Education


Final Student Projects at Their NGDO Placement in Nicaragua

Description of Organization

Student Project Overview

Tesoros de Dios

Provides physical therapy and rehabilitation to an

overlooked and underserved population of
children with disabilities, including equestrian
therapy. Provides some job training and support
for mothers.


Seeks to provide education and vocational

1. Developed a child sponsorship program for
training to marginalized communities in
participating children of La Chureca, including
Nicaragua. Current projects focus on the
pictures, profiles, sponsorship levels, and a website.
Managua City trash dump community of La
2. Decorated, designed, and opened a cyber cafe
Chureca, where hundreds live off the piles of
(including market research).
waste of the capital city.
A sponsorship program would allow individuals, through a very small contribution, to help a child from the
La Chureca community complete their computer education, which can serve them for their future job search,
and keep them out of working in the trash.

New Life

Originally a feeding program for children

abandoned at birth or given over to the Center
by parents or the government, they are now a
full-blown orphanage for over 60 children.

Ola Verde

A socially responsible business that emphasizes

Researched and designed an educational table
regional, seasonal, health-oriented and
centerpiece, including commissioning local artisan and
ecologically sustainable agriculture. Raises
paper company.
awareness of locally grown and organic foods
through education and serves meals using
locally grown, and often organic foods.
Promotes local artisans in the restaurant.
Even before we arrived in Managua we recognized the deficiency of nutritional awareness and availability;
we researched the devastating effects of malnutrition through every stage of life and realized that even the
most fundamental efforts would make a substantial difference . . . However it became shockingly apparent
once we actually arrived in the country how widespread the problem actually waseven animals
demonstrated the appalling effects of hunger . . . These problems that have even the simplest of solutions are
the motivating factors behind health awareness programs in Nicaragua.

Nejapa Christian

Academy has over 225 students. First school in

Remodeled school library (with few books and resources);
Central America accredited by the Assoc. of
organized a book-and-money drive to supply library
Christian Schools Intl (ACSI); has realized its
with $3000, 1500 pounds of books.
goal of offering a comparable education for
Nicaraguas middle class (families earning
$400$1000 per month).
When I walked into the library of NCA, the only reason I knew that I was even in a library was because one
of the teachers told me. The schools library consisted of two table areas and five bookshelves of a random
selection of donated books. My goal is to provide the school with the resources and supplies to fill the library
with books and educational materials so that the school can carry out its mission of educating its children
more effectively. By giving them reference books, novels, maps, and money to buy more materials in
Spanish, students will have a different resource to practice their reading skills in both languages and have a
different resource to research and learn . . . Educational materials are sustainable because they have no
limited number of uses and can provide education for an immeasurable number of students.

1. Designed visual, interactive, educational display along

the equestrian trail to enhance patient cognitive and
social development.
2. Structured directors electronic file system to allow for
doctor and staff use and to begin a child sponsorship
Utilizing my knowledge of working at a therapeutic riding center at home and the programs and mind and
body exercises they implement there, I noticed the environment around Tesoros de Dios . . . As a result, I
propose to do a driveway beautification project . . . Although a child may not be able to communicate or
recognize the objects, they will know that they are there and stimulate something in their mind . . . The more
active children will be more interested and engaged in their new interactive environment.

1. Designed a fund-raising program that would use a

package to facilitate small dinners in homes to share
the mission of the organizationincluded all necessary
materials as well as slide show.
2. Designed a diaper donation project for the 3600 diapers
needed each month.
After working at the New Life Orphanage, I realized how money is so essential for the orphanage to keep
running and how much money they actually go through each day to pay their daily expenses. Before . . . I
was aware that any nonprofit organizations biggest concern is money, however having firsthand experience
at a placement like the orphanage has given me the opportunity to really see how much money is spent and
what it is spent on.



large vehicle, a couple of smaller vehicles, or hiring a driver. Public transportation was not available. The faculty chose to drive in two smaller
vehicles to facilitate quicker delivery and pickup
of students and to allow for flexibility for other
cultural and entertainment excursions. However,
this choice limited the number of students who
could participate in the program. Lessons learned
from the transportation decision included that (1)
transportation can be very difficult and stressful in a
developing country; therefore, consider multiple options and weigh the costs and benefits of each, and
(2) pay attention to the option of living on site for the
development work or near public transportation
routes, if available, because the time and stress involved in transportation may be significant.
Family Immersion
Although some programs might have students live
with local families and others have students live
together in a dormitory-type setting for the entire
program, we chose to include a family stay with
local Nicaraguan families for two nights during
the stay. The other options have significant value
and should be considered. Our choice helped provide students with a valuable cultural immersion
experience while dealing with the reality of the
poverty and vulnerability of most Nicaraguan citizens and answered their desire to spend extended
times in environments with consistent running water, electricity, and pest control. The Managuan
staff person formed a partnership with a local language school that regularly placed students with
local families as part of their education programs.
Therefore, the school recruited local families who
had already passed through their screening
Students lived in these local homes for one
weekend. This dimension of the program allowed
for deep cultural and language immersion for each
student, but the students were quite intimidated by
the prospect once they had experienced the poverty in Nicaragua. Faculty members reassured
them by calling each student on the first night to
check on their safety and the appropriateness of
each setting. Although two families were rather
wealthy, six families were poor, more typical of the
working-class population. All students commented
afterward that it was a worthwhile part of the
experience. The lessons learned from the indigenous family immersion part of the program included that (1) it is important to provide an opportunity for deep cultural immersion. The manner in
which this takes place may vary with location, but
it presents a significant learning experience, and


(2) it is necessary to push students beyond their

comfort zones while simultaneously providing support and encouragement.
Course Structure
Before leaving for Nicaragua, students attended 55
hours of intensive classes in the United States over
10 days. In addition to attending class and expectations of 6 8 hours of preparation homework each
day, students developed a sense of companionship
and affiliation. The bonds between students and
faculty played a role in the success of the program.
The purpose of this pre-immersion period was
twofold: to minimize costs associated with the program (each week in country was far more expensive for students than time spent on the U.S. campus) and to provide a useful framework and
introduction for both courses before immersing
students in the culture and organizations that
were the focus of the courses. They then spent 3
weeks in Nicaragua working in a NGDO and visiting cultural locations and performances in addition to attending 112 hours of class 4 days each
In designing the two courses, faculty chose readings, videos, and speakers that were pertinent to
the area. During the session prior to leaving the
United States, students were exposed to the politics, history, culture, and writings of Central America in general, and of Nicaragua specifically. In
addition, they built a foundation of knowledge of
the principles of SCD. Although having both
classes enhanced the learning for students, the
case example for the framework is the Social Enterprise Leadership course, so it is the sole focus
of the remainder of the article.
In addition to reading a text and selected articles, during the intensive coursework in the United
States, students researched and delivered presentations on the underlying societal issues related to
the mission their placements. For example, students who would work with residents of a municipal dump researched poverty rates and causes in
Nicaragua and specific information about La
Chureca, the Managua city dump. Likewise, students who would work at an orphanage researched birth and adoption rates and the complicated adoption process in Nicaragua. The research
was intended to prepare students to understand
and think carefully about the purposes and complexities of their specific placements. These student research projects set the stage for them on the
theoretical, cultural, and practical issues they
would be exposed to in the country. In fact, 15% of
their course grade was reflective of their written


Academy of Management Learning & Education


and verbal presentation of their research on their

specific issue and their ability to lead a class discussion on it.
While in Nicaragua, students worked at their
placements 6 7 hours, 5 days each week and attended this class approximately 112 hours 2 days
each week. Their work and professionalism, as
assessed by the directors of their organizations,
constituted another 15% of their grades.
Students were also required to write four reflective papers that integrated reading material with
their experiences at their placements for 15% of
their grades. In addition, several speakers who
were local residents and directors of NGDOs working in the area attended class to speak with
students about their own methods of SCD and
leadership. Student preparation for class and involvement in class discussions as well as discussions with speakers and faculty comprised another
15% of their grades for the course.
Journals are also a powerful source of reflection,
often noted as a critical vehicle in service-learning
courses of this type (Cushman, 2002; Eyler, 2002;
Eyler & Giles, 1999; Kenworthy-URen, 2003; Mabry,
1998; Steiner & Watson, 2006). Students kept journals and turned them in three times during the
course for feedback and coaching. Kolbs model of
reflective learning (1984) was used with questions
that asked students to develop their depth of reflection over the course of the 3 weeks. The journals comprised 10% of their course grades.
Finally, students were required to identify a
meaningful improvement project to offer the organization. They were told it could take the form
of a problem that you identify with the organization or something that is lacking that you can design (and potentially implement) that would enhance their operations or fit to their mission. The
intent of the major project was to give students an
opportunity to pull together their knowledge of
SCD and to inform the experience they had, while
making a lasting impact on the organization. This
project constituted the remaining 30% of the students course grade, and it addressed four of the
five critical factors for successful service learning.1

weeks on campus prior to leaving for Nicaragua. In

addition, students ate breakfast together each day,
enjoyed visiting each others placements, and
were encouraged to go out together in the evenings
several times each week. In addition, faculty organized excursions that were both cultural and fun
on two weekends (when students did not have
the home stays). One key lesson learned from the
course structure was to emphasize relational
health and friendships in addition to academic
development. Sustainable community development and living in a third world culture place deep
emotional and stressful burdens on students which
can have a positive, life-changing impact given a
supportive community.

Support for Students

Connections and Evaluations

Using the Framework

Because of the intensity of the coursework and the

emotional and physical stress of the experience of
living and working in a third world country, it was
important to provide support and community for
students. Bonds were established during the 2

Contact the author for a copy of the course syllabus.

Support for Faculty

The amount of work and the stress of the situation
are weighty for faculty, as well. Establishing a
supportive community and opportunities for rest
and release are critical. The burden of transporting
students, partnering with five agencies, preparing,
teaching, grading, managing the program budget,
and living with students is draining and stressful.
It is important to recruit faculty who understand
and embrace the required commitment. The two
faculty members who were part of this program
bonded well with each other, enjoyed lunches together on many days, worked through budget issues and problems with student performance
jointly, and generally enjoyed each others companionship. The companionship was critical to
preserving energy and mental health. Lessons
learned that are pertinent to faculty satisfaction
and commitment included paying attention to the
need for faculty community and support, and effectively developing and facilitating such a servicelearning experience requires deep commitment
and energy. Faculty should be sensitized to the
level of commitment. Last, there is significant reward for faculty in being involved in such an experience with students, and faculty should be recruited with that reward in mind.

I feel like my internship gave me a crash

course in sustainable development in the
Third World. I was introduced to several
topics and themes of sustainability
throughout my internship. From strategic
planning (as my boss was putting the




finishing touches on theirs), to integration,

to resource mobilization . . .
Junior student
The column on the far right in Table 1 illustrates
course requirements that link with each principle
of SCD and the critical elements of service learning. Overall, the course received positive feedback
from organizational partners, faculty, and students. Each NGDO director was asked to give feedback on the program and on the student(s) who
worked at their site. One hundred percent gave
highly favorable reviews of the program and favorable or highly favorable reviews of the student(s)
who worked at their site. Faculty acknowledged
the difficulty of the model and the extra effort required for such a pedagogical approach but also
the strong educational value it offers for students.
Finally, students evaluated the program very positively. Although it was a rigorous and intensive
experience, they generally had positive reactions
and evaluated the experience highly. Seventy-five
percent of students said they agreed or strongly
agreed that this experience was a life-changing
event that they would definitely choose to do
again, given the opportunity. The only weakness of
the program that students expressed was that they
wanted more pretravel information and that the
coursework was very rigorous.
In evaluating the framework of service learning
for teaching SCD, we found this course gives good
examples of implementation of the five critical
principles. Rigorous coursework was integrated
with real work. Students witnessed the difficulties of actual application of the theories and principles written about in texts and articles. In fact,
they could learn far more by bringing the concepts
to life than studying the complexities of SCD in a
third world country in a sterile classroom setting.
One student wrote:
Before I came to Nicaragua I was sure that I
knew what I believed was the best way to
solve poverty and reach the under-reached
populations of the world. Now that I have
experienced it, I am much more confused. I
never dreamed that I would think we should
just feed the poor or bring a school into the
dump, because I didnt think that was sustainable. Now that I am here everyday, it isnt
so cut and dry. My internship . . . has been an
immeasurable learning experience. I am
more confused about the non-profit sector
than before but my interest has not waned
due to this experience. I have encountered
examples of every type of organization and

leadership that I studied in class. . . . The people I met through this organization put a human face on this industry and the community
which it serves.
Students initial research project on a critical issues such as poverty, education, adoption, disabilities, and nutrition as well as reading theoretical
and practical articles on SCD gave them theoretical content knowledge about issues they needed to
understand to make the greatest impact in the
areas they served. They also integrated their
coursework on SCD with their experience and had
to evaluate the sustainability of their final project
based on theory.
In addition to meeting the service-learning principle of integrating course content and real work,
students learned practical solutions to poverty and
the other issues addressed by their organizations.
They began to wrestle with the difficulties of integrating theories of SCD with the practical, daily,
dire needs of the people they served. Addressing
those needs appropriately was more complex and
ambiguous than when they merely read about
them. Experiencing them (smelling the smell of
dire poverty, becoming emotionally attached to
children and staff, having to decide how to spend
limited resources on sustainable efforts or meeting
immediate needs) caused the theories to come
Regarding student voice and ownership, faculty
worked with both partnering organizations and
students to ensure that students were given or
initiated meaningful projects and had adequate
independence in identifying and developing these.
This ownership allowed students to develop their
own thinking about pertinent issues. One student
wrote I have found that the more time I am working on my projects . . . the more I am agreeing with
and identifying with the main ideas that I am
working with. I have always known that organic
food is better to eat but I never knew the extent to
which organics are good for the entire world.
Student ownership and autonomy in these projects modeled the power of letting people solve
their own problems. They were not merely told that
allowing people to be involved and own their own
community solutions was more sustainable than a
Northern entity coming in with all the answers;
they experienced that power. They understood the
frustration and the motivation that results from
having to come up with answers of their own that
were not handed to them.
Students worked with the directors of their organizations to ensure the project they designed
would be useful and practical to the organization,


Academy of Management Learning & Education

which met the reciprocity and partnership factors.

One director and codirector commented that they
had wanted to get a cyber cafe running for nearly
a year, but didnt have the time to research and
develop it. The students accomplished in three
weeks what we had been dreaming of for a year.
Again, through this process, they not only learned
the value of partnership, they experienced it.
The journals and reflection papers also provided
opportunities for students to reflect on what they
were learning. Kolbs (1984) model of reflection
gave them specific questions to consider as they
worked through the four stages of reflection. In
addition, reflective paper assignments asked them
to integrate what they were reading with their
experiences and special speakers.
Not only did the students learn more through
thinking and writing about their experiences and
reactions, but they learned about adaptability.
They learned that in taking the time to reflect, an
individual or an organization can change perspective and adjust. Without reflection people and
groups are likely to merely react.
The final critical principle of service learning is
an explicit statement of the moral values to be
gained from the experience. It is linked to the SCD
principle of ensuring that the indigenous community is prepared to continue with the initiatives
after the NGDO departs. In this context, we examine whether students understand sustainability
and can evaluate whether their proposals and the
missions of their organizations are sustainable.
Students evaluated the strength of their partner
organizations in the significant principles of SCD.
They demonstrated that they understood the content as well as the complexities of enacting SCD
through their involvement with organizations that
were succeeding at varying levels. Students were
required to write a detailed, practical plan for implementing their project, but they were not required, due to time constraints, to actually put it in
place. In some cases, students were able to implement their projects, such as the one student who
conducted a book raising and received over 1500
pounds of books for the school library where he
worked (the books were delivered to the school
over the next 8 months after the student returned to
the United States). In other cases, the students had
to evaluate whether their plan was capable of being implemented and sustained in their absence.
Table 2 provides a list of the student projects at
each organization.
The second part of this principle refers to
whether the experience has changed student values and understanding in a sustainable way. Measuring the sustainability of the change in student


character is more difficult and was the weakest

dimension in this course design. Faculty shared
with each other some values they hoped students
would acquire or, at a minimum, respond to, but
did not share these values explicitly with students.
There was no specific deliverable connected to
values development; therefore, the evaluation of
the effectiveness on this dimension is not systematic. Furthermore, whether the students who selfselected into such an experience already had the
commitment to justice and community outreach
and development is unclear. In future courses on
SCD, values should be explicitly stated and their
development measured. Data should be collected
pre- and postprogram to assess whether values are
developed and sustained.
Students were asked, however, to reflect on their
journey in their final project assignment: How did
you come up with this particular project? What
does it mean to you? Why do you have passion
about it in particular? What experiences, training,
skills, events brought you to this place?
Postanalysis shows that all students report
plans to remain involved in NGDOs in the future.
Ten months after the end of the program, one student accepted a Fulbright Fellowship to teach English in Japan. Another student has applied for a
postgraduate scholarship program in development
in third world countries. In her application she
stated, My belief in global justice, my humanitarian values along with my love of culture have
inspired me to follow a field of study concerned
with international relations and sustainable international development . . . My aspirations to work in
the field of international service and development
were solidified in my experience working in the
third world last summer. Another student has begun sitting as an ex-officio board member of a
large local nonprofit organization to gain understanding of governance and leadership issues.
Two other students are doing summer internships
in U.S. nonprofit organizations to further their understanding of the field and to use their business
courses to serve the nonprofit sector. One sophomore student reported, from boarding a plane for
the first time in many years, to visiting the shores
of Lake Managua, to reaching into the farthest
depths of poverty I can ever imagine, this will be
an experience I will never forget.
This article makes two significant contributions to
the field of management education. First, it integrates the published work on SCD and service
learning. To my knowledge, these literatures have



not been systematically integrated before, and the

framework presented here provides a powerful tool
for enhancing student learning of this increasingly
demanded topic. Second, the case provides a useful example of how to design and deliver a course
on SCD or social enterprise development in a challenging environment (a third world country). Below I discuss each contribution briefly and then
present potential adaptations and extensions.
The challenge set out at the beginning of this
paper was to address the increasing demand from
university students and communities to teach social enterprise or SCD courses. I have demonstrated that this content is particularly well suited
for service-learning pedagogy. As a result of examining the service learning and SCD literatures
together, five important principles necessary to
SCD map nicely onto key characteristics of effective service-learning delivery. This integration results in a framework useful in outlining how to
deliver the key principles of SCD in a way that
enhances learning, and potentially the sustainable development in students of lifelong values
and principles.
In the case example, the faculty designed a
course that met all the criteria for successful service learning, with the exception of explicitly sharing the values that they hoped students would
develop during the experience. Regarding developing those values, the students show some anecdotal evidence of sharing the commitment to social
engagement, appreciation of diverse populations,
and appreciation of the privilege of being born in a
resource-rich country. The various assessment
tools used in the course indicate significant learning about SCD and appropriate interventions in a
third world country, but whether students values
were affected in the long term remains to be seen.
Teaching a service-learning course in an international location away from the sponsoring university and away from faculty homes presents
unique challenges compared to domestic servicelearning courses. The vast majority of the servicelearning literature regards domestic experiences
near the university resources and the faculty contacts. Thus, this article can serve as a resource to
faculty who intend to offer a similar experience
and want a model to follow.
The rewards outweighed the difficulty for the
faculty involved in this experience. Keys to making
it successful included partnering faculty who provided encouragement and support for each other,
developing local contacts to facilitate placements
and logistical arrangements, having at least one
faculty member fluent in the local language (Spanish), doing a careful screening of students for fit,


and having a sense of flexibility and adventure.

The specific lessons learned are captured in Appendix B. Several adaptations may be necessary,
and these are discussed below.
Adaptation and Future Directions
Theoretically, the framework presented here
makes sense as an effective way to teach SCD, but
tests of its effectiveness are limited to one example. Further evidence from international and domestic programs will shed light on its replicability.
My university has continued to develop resources
and educational opportunities in Nicaragua. A
multidisciplinary research team is collecting longitudinal data on development opportunities and
efforts. I encourage faculty at other universities to
replicate this framework and to continue to study
and share findings on this important content area.
To develop and deliver such a course requires
exceptional resources from the university and faculty involved, which are difficult to find in a developing country. To sustain such programs, universities need to develop financial resources as well
as a pool of faculty willing to engage in such
projects. Any single faculty member is unlikely to
want to deliver this type of course consistently. A
pool of faculty could be used to provide oversight
and insight and to evaluate course proposals and
program issues as well as support and mentorship
to faculty delivering courses at a given time. Universities must also commit to in-country staff to
manage program logistics.
Transportation logistics combined with the pedagogical choice to place students in various
NGDOs as individuals or pairs require that the
class be quite small. In some universities, courses
of less than 10 students are not financially viable;
therefore, some constraints in this case example
would need to be relaxed. If the class size grew
larger, faculty might place groups of students at
the same organization to facilitate transportation and coordination demands. Faculty need to
be cognizant of the tradeoffs resulting from these
A grant used to underwrite some costs of this
case example facilitated reasonable costs to students, but other constraints in the example could
be relaxed to make the experience more cost effective if grant money was not available to offset
expenses. For example, finding a location where
public transportation was readily available would
reduce expenses and allow for more placement
opportunities. In addition, living in dormlike facilities could reduce costs, compared to those of the
small, family-owned hotel used in this case. Finan-



Academy of Management Learning & Education

cial considerations may lead to changes in the

operationalization of a course, but the pedagogical
implications can remain true to the model presented here.
Risk assessment is critical for such programs.
Theuniversitysexposureisincreasedbecausethirdworld countries have volatile political and economic systems in addition to increased health and
welfare risks for students and faculty. Finally,
placements that fit with students interest and expertise and allow for meaningful work and autonomy for students are critical (Morgan & Streb, 2001;
Salimbene et al., 2005). Finding enough of these
types of placements that are also within transportation and other logistical parameters is difficult.
Developing a network with numerous organizations over time is critical for success, and universities may not have access to these relationships.









Universities have an increasing interest in developing meaningful courses on topics such as SCD
and social enterprise. The nature of these courses
and the complexity of the issues are best taught
with a service-learning pedagogy. These topics do
not have to be taught in a third world context. They
are applicable to many contexts, including urban
and rural America. The framework of key principles coupled with elements from service learning
can be utilized across contexts, and tests of the
framework in a variety of contexts are welcome
and encouraged. The course presented here as a
case example demonstrates the usefulness of the
framework in a single context. The case can inform
faculty about important considerations and address many of the issues that other faculty members would need to consider when developing similar programs.

Summary of Lessons Learned in Case Example
1. Identify a local contact in the host country to help develop
key partnership, relationships, and options for housing,
restaurants, etc.
2. Getting to know as much about the country and culture
before taking students is helpful in answering their questions and alleviating concerns of parents.
3. Establishing relationships with NGDOs that may serve
as sites for the experience is very important as a first step
in the reciprocal relationship essential to effective service learning.
4. It is critical to have an open mind for potential placement



opportunities and to be flexible in matching opportunities with student interests and skills.
Try not to place all students in the same organization.
Students will have a richer experience if they are placed
individually or in very small groups in organizations so
they cannot hide.
The living location is critical to provide opportunities for
students and faculty to both interact in the local culture
and live relatively stress free.
All constituents are interested in safety and health so
take the measures necessary to assure faculty, students, and parents that these issues have been given
significant consideration.
Transportation can be very difficult and stressful in a
developing country; therefore, consider multiple options
and weigh the costs and benefits of each.
Pay attention to the option of living on site for the development work or near public transportation routes, because the time and stress involved in transportation may
be significant.
Emphasize relational health and friendships in addition
to academic development. Sustainable development and
living in a third world culture place deep emotional and
stressful burdens on students, which can have a positive,
life-changing impact, given a supportive community.
Pay attention to the need for faculty community and support.
Effectively developing and facilitating such a servicelearning experience requires deep commitment and energy. Faculty should be sensitized to the level of commitment.
There is significant reward for faculty in being involved
in such an experience with students; faculty should be
recruited with that reward in mind.

Checklist for Trip Preparation
Meet with directors of NGDOs to develop catalog of placement

Learn their mission, opportunities, and needs

Express the learning focus of the experience and the

importance of meaningful work and student voice
and involvement in developing a worthwhile project
Develop partnerships where both student and organization gain significantly from the experience
Assess other opportunities and connections in community (build a network)
Explore housing opportunities and reserve housing venue
Discover cultural and entertainment opportunities
Determine most appropriate transportation and secure transportation mode
Conduct safety and risk assessment (use university resources
for assistance)
Explore opportunities for opening dinners, group events, team
building, quiet study and reflection opportunities, fitness facilities, and Internet access
Locate important facilities

Bank or currency exchange locations



U.S. Embassy or police
Post office
Printing facility

Arrange for family stays

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Holly Brower received her PhD in organizational behavior and human resources from Purdue
University. She is currently on the faculty at Wake Forest University where she teaches
undergraduate and MBA courses in leadership, organizational behavior, and nonprofit leadership. Brower has also taught in international programs in Nicaragua and Germany, and has
developed and directed the internship program for the Business and Enterprise Management
major at Wake Forest.
In addition to her graduate education, Brower has 12 years of management experience in
the nonprofit sector, including directorships in the American Cancer Society, Neighborhood
Housing Services, and Youth For Christ. Her training and consulting expertise lie in the areas
of leadership, team building, governance, and strategic planning.

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