Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Community Responsiveness - Feb 8 discussion group summary

David Moulton facilitated our second face-to-face discussion on the theme of Community Responsiveness this past Monday at New Westminster and provides this summary. Please feel free to comment. (You can also read the summary of the Jan 27 discussion of Community Responsiveness here.) --Scott

Community Responsiveness discussion group summary - from David Moulton, Marketing Instructor

It was a small group that met to discuss the Community question for the strategic planning process. Our group did not have a lot of debate or disagreement and the discussion was wide-ranging.

There are numerous external communities that Douglas has responded to in the past and there are certainly more that we can work with the future. The definition of community should not be restricted to a simple physical definition. At the same time there are a large number of communities within the College and there was agreement that we need to be more engaged with the groups within our four walls.

An example of an internal opportunity is the Douglas Student Union. The group felt that the College has some excellent opportunities for a stronger relationship, particularly around the development of student clubs, specific interest groups and use of facilities.

Given that the College is a 'commuter'-based institution, we need to be aware that our students, staff and faculty have competing demands beyond the campus so any work in developing community must keep this in mind.

We must also find ways to make the physical plant more friendly to people (in particular the concourse and outside spaces at the New Westminster campus) but not too friendly so we minimize the problems of a street-front operation.

The community outreach at Douglas is greater than most members of the Douglas community realize. For example, the campus can be busy on the weekends with religious and social groups using our facilities.

Two of our participants had attended 'community outreach' breakfasts and they were impressed with the positive feedback from the meetings and the fact that people in the general community wanted to know more about what was going on at Douglas.

The Training Group was noted as being very strong in the local communities while our international exchange programmes have built relationships further afield (China, Wales, Uganda and Mexico).

We talked about breaking down the silos within the Douglas 'communities' - how can we develop broader awareness in the different faculties of cross-disciplinary opportunities? For example we could bring business management skills to nursing, recreation and children and family services, and at the same time raise awareness of the importance of the NGO sector for business students.

We explored the idea of developing a symbiotic relationship with our communities – can we utilize space in other facilities while at the same time increase the use of our own space by outside groups? This mutually supportive approach could result in more practicums, service learning, better development of co-curricular recognition and PLAR. The goal would be the creation of communities of practice and learning.

Unlike a number of other local post-secondary schools, there was consensus that we do not have good external signage, particularly in New Westminster, which limits our visibility in the local area.

There was a question about the commitment to support community outreach. One person noted that they could not accept volunteers from the community because of insurance restrictions.

The issue of free speech was also brought up by several individuals. The example that was used was the refusal of the College to allow anti-Olympic people access to our buildings and they were not given permission to use a table in the concourses. Unlike most other post-secondary institutions where there is tolerance for diverse opinions, this type of policy was seen as negative and counter-productive.

It was suggested that the College consider the use of flat screen monitors in various locations about the College to disseminate up-to-date information on what is happening at the College and in the surrounding communities.

Additional comment from Lori:
“I have a specific follow up suggestion that I'd like to add to my comment re: creating an environmental map of available resources inside and outside the college (so we have a better sense of our opportunities). I think this would make a very good interdisciplinary project for students via the Centre for Health and Community Partnerships. And by the way, (it is) interesting that none of us brought up that college resource in our discussions!”

Additional comment from Ronnie:
"1) A mention that sufficient resources should be dedicated to supporting community outreach at both current levels and at any planned expansions in this area - I'm not sure about other areas, but I know I'm stretched beyond limits (esp. time wise) in my community outreach environmental education work.

2) A mention that a process needs to be worked out so that volunteers can be accepted to help with Douglas programs - both students who would like to volunteer, and so strengthen our 'immediate family' community and those from off campus who could bring both 'labour support' as well as new opportunities for connections and learning to the College from our 'extended family' communities.”


What do you think? We welcome your comments on this discussion.


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