Midwest Campus Compact: Community Engagement Conferences Build Impact

Community engagement conferences provide essential opportunities to hear from peers and partners in the higher education engagement space. Last month, members of our team attended the Midwest Campus Compact 2021 Conference alongside higher ed institutions and social impact organizations to learn about innovative and impactful ways to engage our communities. This year’s conference theme was Resilience and Responsibility for Racial and Environmental Justice; sessions honed in on ways of thinking and engaging that will continue to strengthen programmatic commitment to social justice

Standout moments included Fireside Chats from Antionette Carroll and Ken Reardon, whose sessions examined structural elements of effective engagement in service-learning spaces. In this post, we will reflect on these learnings from the Fireside Chat speakers and consider how we can use these ideas to strengthen all of our programs moving forward. Whether or not you participated in the Midwest Campus Compact Conference, we’d love to chat with you about your own community engagement structures and how we can work together to build committed communities at your institutions! 

Building Cathedrals: Community Structure for Success 

As founder, president, and CEO of Creative Reaction Lab, Antionette Carroll has received recognitions and awards for her work challenging racial and health inequities that impact Black and Latinx populations, in particular her development of Equity-Centered Community Design (a Fast Company World Changing Idea Finalist). 

During her fireside chat, Carroll emphasized the idea of change as cathedral building, reiterating the pivotal role that a structural community plays in creating and sustaining change. In order to make a lasting difference in our communities, it is crucial to develop a structure that invites and supports a diverse community. This support may entail anything from physical spaces for community gathering and conversation, to online compilations of resources, to strategies that fill needs and gaps with both time and goods. 

Key takeaway: Reflect on how you can develop a structure that invites and supports diverse communities. Ways to fulfill these needs may include calling in your community for racial justice, recruiting enthusiastic volunteers and keeping them engaged, and reinforcing existing relationships

Learn more about how GivePulse supports structures of community partnerships to help you innovate and meet gaps! 

Sites of Significance: Evaluating and Reporting On Our Community Structures 

Ken Reardon is a professor in the School of the Environment at The University of Massachusetts Boston, where his work as the Chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Community Development aligns with his widely-recognized work in community planning and development efforts within underserved rural and urban communities. 

Reardon’s fireside chat illustrated the importance of effectively reporting on change, particularly in evaluating higher education effectiveness as sites of significance for partners. Evaluating programs involves capturing and analyzing data that will answer questions about community needs and gaps. When done effectively, data capture is one of the key tenets of positive change in our communities, playing an essential role in analyzing outcomes from programs and engagement strategies, determining which locations and causes are most in need of support and capacity-building, and whose voices are being heard or overlooked in issues of widespread importance. 

Key takeaway: Reflect on how you are deciding which data to collect and how you are reporting on this data. Review our data webinars — on making data-driven decisions for collective impact, turning data into storytelling, and turning data into action — for more information on different factors to keep in mind when gathering data. 

Learn more about how GivePulse allows you to capture and report on diverse datasets for effective engagement and partnerships! 

Looking Ahead: Learning From Community Engagement Conferences

We are so grateful for our vibrant, innovative, and caring community of higher education professionals. We always enjoy learning from and alongside you at community engagement conferences. Check out some upcoming opportunities to learn and engage this summer and fall. We hope to see you there! 

To learn more about how we can work together to make an impact through service-learning and community engagement, schedule a call with a member of our team!