Pam Bischoff facilitated our first face-to-face discussion on the theme of Community Responsiveness yesterday at David Lam and provides this summary. Please feel free to comment.
If you missed this event, there will be another opportunity to discuss Community Responsiveness on Monday, February 8, 4:15-6pm, at New West. RSVP online. --Scott
Community Responsiveness discussion group summary - from Pam Bischoff, Manager of Institutional Research
A small group generated some creative and concrete ideas on ways to bring more visibility to our collective activities within the communities we serve. They also identified ways to improve internal connections in order to maximize community responsiveness and support.
Defining community: when the College was established, we had a strong local “store front” presence, and grassroots connections with local organizations, labour unions, etc. Curriculum/content was delivered outside the "fortress walls" of the College. A participant pointed out that the contemporary definition of community was different in 1970s: “What has changed in 40 years is the links between the still very important locals and other vitally connected but geographically regional, national and global” community.
Ultimately, our definition of community centres on students, but what other parts of our local community will we serve? What needs can we meet? Will there be resources, and how do we remove those perceived “fortress walls”?
Community connections: we need to connect, and there is a desire to make this easier and less frustrating - to open up a two-way flow of communication between the College and the communities we serve to discover their needs. But we have to be cognizant of how we seek information on community needs, to avoid setting up expectations that we cannot meet. It was noted that requests come in regularly that we can't respond to due to infrastructure limitations.
Good work is being done by those who are our eyes and ears in the community: ONS, Athletics, Community Programmers, The Training Group, The Foundation, and the Regional Student Transitions Coordinator. Perhaps members of these areas could form a working group to share information, help clarify or define community needs through their grassroots connections, and identify collaborative opportunities?
External collaboration and partnerships will also be a key component to responding to community needs.
Community outreach: the group felt there is untapped potential. They noted current outreach activities are largely driven by individuals with an interest in and commitment to bringing content to the community. Of interest, each participant had something to share about how they or their colleagues connect with the community. So there may be more going on with community outreach than we collectively know.
In effect, every employee who engages in community outreach is already a chapter in the book of Douglas’ Community Responsiveness. This led to the realization that we need a coordinating body that can pull these disparate chapters together. This will take time, but in order to define a direction for Community Responsiveness we need a clear, collective picture of what we are doing in our local communities, whom we are serving, and what needs we are already meeting.
Infrastructure needs: with a central coordinating body/entity, the College would have a “swifter” and more responsive process for fielding Community requests. Some felt that now it takes too long to get some simple things done. It's also hard for people outside the College find out whom to contact to discuss a community need. Our existing individual relationships are good - we don’t want to lose them - but we also need to make it easier for community members who don't have those relationships to make a connection.
Centralization would also make it possible to track, record and report these activities. We likely have much to celebrate but without all the “chapters” our story is incomplete. In addition, the current pockets of community work could be coordinated and supported to enhance or maximize their collective impact.
The group also discussed the need to acknowledge and recognize community work. A possible option is time release, though some felt not every community interaction needs release beyond accountable time. Reward systems and research grants were also discussed as models in place at Kwantlen before it became a University.
Other topics included Elder College referencing models at Kwantlen and UBC; topical (e.g., Philosopher’s) Cafés tailored to background (Age, Language, Religious affiliation) of clientele; and a Community Office as a social enterprise for marketing the expertise of College employees.
What do you think? We welcome your comments on this discussion.