Photo by chesbayprogram under CC BY 2.0.
By Lanton Lee
For service to have value and meaning, there are five critical elements that must be included in the design and direction of all community-service projects.
1. Community Voice
Community voice is essential if we are to build bridges, bring about change and solve problems. Every Kiwanis club should make sure that the voice and needs of the community are included in the development of its community-service projects. We can accomplish this by conducting a community analysis on an annual basis. Learn more about the community analysis.
2. Orientation & Training
Orientation and training are important first steps for any community-service experience. Information should be provided for Kiwanis members about the community, the issue and the agency or community group. This can be done by inviting a representative to present a program at a club meeting before the service project.
3. Meaningful Action
Meaningful action means that the service being done is necessary and valuable to the community itself. Meaningful action makes members feel like what they did made a difference in a measurable way and that their time was well used. Without this, members will not want to continue their service, no matter how well we do with the other four elements.
Reflection is a crucial component of the community-service experience. Reflection should happen immediately after the experience to discuss reactions, share stories and explore feelings. Reflection is also a good time to present additional facts about the issues and thus dispel any stereotypes or an individual’s alienation from service. Reflection should place the experience into a broader context. This can be done at the club meeting following the service project.
Evaluation measures the impact of the member’s experience and the effectiveness of the service in the community. Members should evaluate their experience and agencies should evaluate the effectiveness of the members’ service. Evaluation gives direction for improvement, growth and change. Quality community service should challenge members to educate themselves about the issues surrounding their involvement, so they might better understand and work with communities. Each effort must be designed with the intent of creating long-term solutions, while ensuring independence, mutual education, dignity and respect for all.
Adapted from the Campus Outreach Opportunity League (COOL)