How Service and Service-Learning Spark Social Justice

Service-learning allows students to see the world from different perspectives and learn about how social justice issues impact individuals and communities locally and globally. Through community engagement, students develop the necessary skills to be agents of change in their own communities. 

But for service-learning opportunities to successfully provide pathways to social justice and positive change, they must be well designed and delivered. Here are five ways you can ensure that your institution's service-learning offerings spark social justice:

1. Make Service-Learning Accessible

Students who participate in service-learning report increased academic achievement, improved civic engagement and increased career readiness. Through place-based engagement, students can apply what they are learning in the classroom to real-world situations, building transferable skills like problem-solving, communication and critical thinking.

However, to ensure all students can reap the benefits, service-learning needs to be accessible. By investing in a service-learning management platform like GivePulse, higher education institutions can list community partners and service opportunities so students can easily search and find relevant ways to engage in the community.

Removing financial roadblocks is another critical way to make service-learning accessible. Consider working with your institution to design a work-study program so students can get paid for their service hours as they would for an on-campus job. This widens the net of opportunity for students who may not be able to afford to volunteer their time but would like to get involved. It's also an excellent way for your institution to contribute to the local community.

2. Engage in Meaningful Dialogue

Through service-learning, students can engage directly with the issues they are studying, from food justice to political policy. In this way, students can see firsthand how their academic knowledge can be applied to real-life situations. But this level of exposure can create some discomfort and prompt challenging conversations. 

Make sure your students are prepared for their placements by having thoughtful and meaningful conversations about the individuals they'll be working with and the challenges they face. If your students are not from the community they're engaging with, they will need to be honest about what they don't understand and lean into the possibilities for dialogue. Create opportunities for ongoing reflection and conversation through weekly meetings, cohort-building activities and one-on-ones.

3. Demonstrate the Impact of Service-Learning

To stay motivated, students need to understand how their service-learning can make a difference. There are many ways that community engagement has impacted social justice movements. For instance, during the 2020 election, many students mobilized to register voters and help people understand the issues on their ballots.

Discuss some examples from your institution of how students have meaningfully moved the needle on an important social justice issue. If you're already using GivePulse to manage your service-learning, you'll have this data at your fingertips. Our platform allows you to measure and demonstrate the collective impact of your students' work by tracking hours and gathering student reflections along with custom outputs, like the number of voters registered.

4. Encourage Reflection 

For any successful service-learning project, reflection is critical. By taking the time to contemplate their experiences, students can better understand the impact of their work and how it contributed to social justice in their community. Make sure your reflection prompts include challenging questions requiring students to consider their positionality, what they learned and how they can take their engagement further.

When students can understand the impact and context of their community engagement, it sparks the desire to continue their service and become even more active in the social justice space.

Get Started with GivePulse

GivePulse's mission is to enable everyone in the world to participate and engage in lifting their community to new heights. We believe service-learning can prepare students for a lifetime of leadership and civic engagement by helping them develop the skills they need to support social justice in their communities. 

When done thoughtfully and with the proper support, student service can be a powerful tool for social change, and GivePulse is here to help. We offer a platform for educators to oversee logistics and scheduling for individual students and groups, track hours and reflections and manage community partnerships–all from one place. 

Ready to see how we can help your institution strengthen its approach to community-engaged learning? Schedule a demo with GivePulse today.



About GivePulse

GivePulse's mission is to enable everyone in the world to participate and engage in lifting their community to new heights. We do so by providing a platform to list, find, organize and measure the impact of service-learning, community engagement, philanthropy, corporate social responsibility and volunteerism.

Founded in 2012 in Austin, Texas, GivePulse works with 650,000+ groups, including colleges and universities, nonprofits, businesses, K-12/school districts and cities and municipalities. Together, we connect millions of people in an effort to create positive social change.

Start making a difference today by visiting