Resipwosite as a Guiding Framework for Rethinking Mutual Exchange in Global Service Learning Partnerships. Findings From a Case Study of the Haiti Compact

Jessica Murphy

International service learning (ISL) and global service learning (GSL) aim to connect communities and institutions of higher education on a global scale for the purposes of “civic education, cross-cultural immersion and relationship building, community development work, [and] shared inquiry for problem-solving and change” (Crabtree, 2008, p. 28). Regardless of the institutional structure and program designs used to provide students with service-based learning experiences abroad, the manner in which the connection is made between the universities and host communities is of great importance and entails ethical challenges of balancing the interests of both groups. In an international context, there are additional unique challenges that must be met if the partnership is to benefit both parties, particularly when disparate resources, mobility, and history exist, such as is often the case between the global North and South.

Organizers of ISL programs, as Humphrey Tonkin (2011) argues, “have an ethical obligation to balance student development against commitment to service; students have a responsibility to agency clients and to community members; (and) agencies have a responsibility to their volunteers” (p. 203). Designing ISL and GSL programs that balance the interests of ALL participants is essential to the establishment and development of ethical working partnerships between international communities. Design and relationship are concurrent programmatic elements that should occur simultaneously and converge to inform and shape one another. In this way, curricular and co-curricular service-based international education animates a pedagogy that promotes global consciousness and citizenship by exemplifying those constructs through reciprocal partnerships. Healthy partnerships between higher education institutions and international communities are essential to the achievement of positive outcomes for the students and communities participating in GSL. Done well, partnerships exhibiting qualities of reciprocity function as a socio-cultural restorative pedagogy. When partnerships are not reciprocal, the university becomes an agent apart from the community that is acting upon the community (Baker-Boosamra, Guevara, & Balfour, 2006; Woolf, 2008), in turn further entrenching uneven power structures that GSL is designed to challenge.

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