Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

New Directions and Strategies for Community Engaged Scholarship: International Perspectives

Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

New Directions and Strategies for Community Engaged Scholarship: International Perspectives

Article excerpt

New Directions and Strategies for Community Engaged Scholarship: International Perspectives

Marianne A. Larsen, Editor

New York: Routledge, 2016

At the 2008 International Association for Research on Service Learning and Community Engagement (IARSLCE) Conference, I participated in a plenary panel discussion titled "Research for What? New Directions and Strategies for Community Engaged Scholarship: International Perspectives." I was asked to represent perspectives on this question developed from my long-term experience as a service-learning practitioner/scholar in both the United States and overseas. As part of my presentation, I offered the following remarks:

... most service-learning research focuses on students and faculty rather than on communities ... [because] going into the community is just more difficult. It is easier for researchers to focus on students, because they are a captive audience--if you want them to fill out a survey, they will. Tracking down community people to get them to answer surveys or actually sit down and take time to plan a collaborative research project is very challenging and time-consuming. My challenge to all of us is that if we are really going to bring community voices and information needs into our research, we have got to express the same determination, courage and sensitivity to diverse cultural norms and demands as we ask of our service-learning students. We've got to make the effort to walk away from our campuses, into the communities, and build relationships with community partners--research relationships as well as practice ones. Then perhaps, we can begin to bring community voices loudly, clearly and effectively into our dialogue. (Gelmon, Stanton, Rudd, & Pacheco-Pinzon, 2009)

Thankfully, since that time, more service-learning research has begun to focus on the experience of communities and community partners. To my knowledge, most of this research is focused in the U.S. and on outcomes. More recently, however, International Service-Learning (ISL) research is surfacing. While it too is largely student outcomes-focused, attention to community partners is beginning to appear. (1) Marianne Larsen's book under review here, New Directions and Strategies for Community Engaged Scholarship: International Perspectives, with its focus on voices and perspectives of ISL partners and community hosts in the global South, is a most welcome addition.

Right off the bat in her Acknowledgments, Larsen notes Michel Foucault's suggestion [no citation given] that "we turn out attention to the views of those who have been 'out of sight' in history ... [Without] these disqualified voices ... the critical work of interrogating and imagining ISL differently could not take place" (2) (p. 9). Indeed, in this book, we find numerous global South community voices that share experiences and perspectives of ISL community partners--program coordinators, NGO partner organization staff, and homestay mothers. This book's arrival is way past due.

Bookends

Part I of the book includes two chapters that provide an overview and critical orientation to the chapters to follow. In her excellent literature review in Chapter One, Larsen summarizes the evolution of service-learning research as it relates to communities and partners, and its gradual expansion from domestic to internationally-based programs. While noting the importance of these developments, especially the "focusing on those working within NGO and other partner organizations, their motivations for engaging in ISL partnerships, and the benefits and challenges that accrue in these relationships," Larsen spotlights the fact that these studies continue to "leave out the voices of others in the local community that students interact with during their stay ..." concluding that

   ... it is worth noting that the existing research [I
   have] reviewed ... is carried out by individuals in
   the global North universities, rather than by individuals
   from the global South. … 
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