CCE in the News: Civic Hacking and Mountaintop

This summer, the Center for Community Engagement partnered with the Mountaintop Initiative to host a series of projects under the umbrella of CivLab.  CivLab was a set of student-led, inquiry-based projects with the thread of community and civic engagement running through each.  This article in the College of Education’s magazine Theory to Practice highlighted the civic hacking and social change project.  Five undergraduates and one graduate student explored the issues of food access and security in the neighborhood around the university as part of Lehigh’s Mountaintop initiative, which allows students to independently explore open-ended questions and try to implement sustainable change.

Read more about the initiative here.

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In the wake of a violent week, thoughts from the CCE’s Director

Speechless, but not powerless: in times of confusion, fear, and sadness, we seek the strength, skills, and respect for each other to build stronger communities where all of our citizens are celebrated and included… and can thrive and grow up, old, wise, and in the light of love and respect.

Community engagement is one way to work towards that vision of a better future. The thing that keeps us hopeful are the MANY friends in the Office of Multicultural Affairs, PRIDE Center, Community Service Office, Women’s Center, Literature and Social Justice (English), Africana Studies, the Council for Equity and Community – to name but a few – who are engaging us in discussions and pushing us to be a better version of ourselves. There exist strong voices on campus constantly thinking critically and challenging injustices. This gives us a small glimmer of hope through these waves of sadness.

And we know that this work is not easy and not everyone feels included in inclusion. It’s daunting. It’s hard. It makes us have to confront things that we might not like about ourselves or our society, and some can be paralyzed from having the discussion because they simply do not know how and worry a misstep will reveal their ignorance. Yet, most of us have a feeling that we need to and can move forward to a just world, and are unsure how.

For those who seek that way forward, but are uncertain how to begin, Parker Palmer’s tools from “Healing the Heart of Democracy” are a great start. He outlines 5 habits for each of us to cultivate to challenge, question, listen, learn, grow, and appreciate. When such habits become our second nature, the world and our communities will mirror those ideals. There’s no better day than today to start. – SES

NOTE: This was originally posted to our Facebook page on 07.08.16.

A Perspective on Poverty

There is a rightful global obsession with poverty.

Since 1987, the world has marked October 17 as “The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty”. It’s odd that in the Wikipedia article on the subject, the writers characterize the day as being “celebrated” as, despite progress, poverty is seemingly our never-ending story.

The UN Millennium Development Goals named eradicating poverty as Job #1 from 2000-2015. During that time, about 1 billion people were lifted from poverty and the number of people living on less than $1.25 per day, or in extreme poverty, was cut in half. The UN Sustainable Development Goals now aim to cut the number of people in that category to zero by 2030. In addition, the goals seek to reduce at least by half the proportion of people living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions.

So what does being poor actually look like? What does it feel like to live with less than you need? The world is enormous. Just how can you wrap your head around what poverty looks and feels like while living in the richest and among the most advanced countries in the history of humankind if this isn’t your everyday existence?

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Creating community—locally and globally—as refugee resettlement debate rages on

We stand at a critical decision-making moment as a nation. We can respond to terrorism by a violent few through policies and rhetoric that further divide and marginalize an entire population. Or, instead, we can embark upon the messy and necessary work of active citizenship that engage us with our neighbors and strengthen our community locally and globally.

As college students across the nation grapple with diversity and inclusion on campus, they are also wrestling with the question of what it means to embrace diversity as a nation—especially in this time of pain and uncertainty. Student participants in Lehigh University’s Global Citizenship program—which prepares students for living in a culturally diverse and rapidly changing world—have engaged in community-based learning that promotes their identity as active citizens while working with local organizations. Chief among the organizations is the local chapter of the Lutheran Children and Family Services Refugee Resettlement Program, which assists refugees and asylees through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of State. These services are made available to hundreds of refugees each year in the five-county Southeast Pennsylvania area, Lancaster County and in the Lehigh Valley area, which includes Allentown, home to one of the largest Syrian populations in the U.S. and a neighboring city of Bethlehem, where Lehigh University is located.

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The Belmont Life

One of the great opportunities at a top tier research university is to be part of a community that is constantly seeking to know, striving to ask the hard questions and, at times, struggling to find the right answers. In this environment, there can certainly be at least a mild crisis effect in these efforts, at times some high-minded expression of the process and the access and the difficulties in finding just the right mix of ingredients to make the work…well…work. Is there enough funding? Is there enough time? Is it grounded in a cross-disciplinary approach? Where can we find the right mix of research participants and how can we know we’re doing right by them?

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Building Capacity for Ethical, Responsible Community-Engaged Work

Last week, we had the distinct privilege of hosting Patti Clayton here at Lehigh for a few days of professional development workshops.  Delving into day-long exploratory sessions, we discussed a wide range of issues facing the field of service-learning and civic/community engagement (SLCE).  Much of what we discussed focused on understanding and addressing the continuum of service learning and community/civic-engaged work from technocratic (doing service “for”) to democratic (partnering around service “with”).

Lehigh stands at a crossroads in this regard.

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Welcome! Announcing the New Center for Community Engagement at Lehigh

Welcome!  The Center for Community Engagement (CCE) is a new resource at Lehigh to facilitate, support, and connect around meaningful, sustainable projects locally and globally.  Founded in August 2015, the CCE is a central hub which all faculty, staff, students, and community partners should feel engaged with and supported by in order to conduct community-engaged learning, projects, and research.  We assist Lehigh’s faculty, staff, and students who are involved with service-learning classes or community-based research projects, mobilizes university-community partnerships to address societal challenges, promotes knowledge and research for the common good, and helps cultivate engaged citizens.

Check out our one-page description of the work and intent of the CCE: LehighCCE_OnePage