Practicing what I preach: bringing a critical development perspective to community-based service-learning research and practice (14704)
In an attempt to re-theorise dominant development practice, important alternative geographies of development have emerged. This presentation focuses on the increased civic participation in community development through the higher education initiative, community-based service-learning (CBSL). CBSL integrates experiential learning and the academic goals of undergraduate students with organised activities designed to meet objectives of community partners. CBSL has the potential to enhance academic learning, foster civic responsibility, develop life skills and transform student attitudes. Little research however, supports claims that benefits are mutual amongst higher education and community counterparts. A lack of empirical research into community partner impacts and responses not only reflects a unidimensional understanding of the mutuality of programs, but fails to challenge dominant power relations embedded in traditionally uneven partnerships. Furthermore, as a community-based intervention, CBSL is inherently historically and ideologically connected to participatory community development discourse and practice. CBSL research, however, has also yet to engage significantly with critical development thinking, or draw on community-based research practices. Remaining dissatisfied with the current lack of critical inquiry, this presentation reflects on what it means to bring a critical development perspective to the field of CBSL. Drawing on post-colonial and post-development discourse, I examine the interpretations, perceptions and meanings that Indigenous community-based organisations in Sabah, Malaysia and the Northern Territory, Australia attribute to CBSL in light of their broader objectives. I also critically reflect on my own practice of ‘doing’ development geography as I seek to challenge on a more intimate scale the binaries between campus and community, researcher and researched, and research and practice.