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Racism and Anti-Racism in America

The Complexity of Doing Good

Although this video focuses largely on the change work students and volunteers often do, the lessons described apply to all types of change work when working with individuals and groups different from yourself.

Excerpt From


Whether your an experienced volunteer or have never worked on a community engagement project before, a critical first step in preparing for your experiences, learning about the community in which you'll be working. Sometimes, and especially in a university setting, we can become so used to approaching problem solving from an academic perspective that it's easy to conflate scholarly knowledge with the expertise that comes from lived experiences. As you research a community, it's important to remember that despite any technical skills or academic knowledge you bring to the work, the community members themselves are the experts when it comes to issues related to their lives. As a guest to a community that isn't your own, recognize that you'll never able to completely understand the community during the short time you're there. Therefore, it will be important to learn about the community in advance but to remain open minded to new ideas and recognize that the learning process never stops. Section one of this module will explore the importance components of understanding community contacts and using this knowledge to provide the foundation for your community engagement experience. We'll share strategies for broadening your understanding of the community so that you are better equip, more confidence and mentally prepared to start your community engagement experience. Section two will discuss how to collect information and will suggest different types of sources you can consult in preparation for your experience. The important process of evaluating resources will also be discussed. At the end of this module, you'll have the opportunity to practice evaluating a couple of sources. In the last section, we'll discuss issues related to ethical and responsible community engagement. Too often, the ethics of how to engage with a community are overlooked in the pursuit of fully engaging with a community and understanding their context. We hope that discussing these issues and examining some principles for ethical engagement will help you make better informed decisions and be more effective in your work.