Knowledge, Skills & Commitments

Our approach to community engagement is informed by the community organizing model. That is, we apply the philosophy and skills of the community organizing process, such as identifying self-interest, building relationships, understanding root causes, restructuring power, and centering the experience of the communities most impacted by injustice and systemic oppression, to inform how we build partnerships for community engagement.    

We value the principles and elements of Emergent Strategyi in our quest to fulfill our vision of collaborating with communities to improve lives. Emergent Strategy provides a way of approaching our work with a set of skills and strategies “for organizers building movements for justice and liberation that leverage relatively simple interactions to create complex patterns, systems, and transformations – including adaptation, interdependence and decentralization, fractal awareness, resilience and transformative justice, nonlinear and iterative change, creating more possibilities.” (p. 24) 

We believe that students’ capacity to do authentic, ethical community-engaged work is enhanced when they:

Ways to Enhance Community-Engagement

  • [Commitment] Commit to Working Collaboratively for Social Change.

    This includes being guided by the Community Organizing process and embracing Emergent Strategy in your organizing work. Emergent Strategy is to practice “being in right relationship to our home and each other . . . how we intentionally change in ways that grow our capacity to embody the just and liberated worlds we long for.” To embrace Emergent Strategy is to let its principles guide your approach to social change work, these include: 

    • Change is constant (Be like water). 
    • There is always enough time for the right work. 
    • There is a conversation in the room that only these people at this moment can have. Find it. 
    • Never a failure, always a lesson. 
    • Trust the People. (If you trust the people, they become trustworthy). 
    • Move at the speed of trust. Focus on critical connections more than critical mass – build the resilience by building the relationships. 
    • Less prep, more presence. 
    • What you pay attention to grows. 
  • [Commitment] Act for the Public Good
    • consider your place within community and your responsibility to others  
    • engage in civic professionalism, understanding how you can orient your professional life and work in ways that contribute to creating a just and equitable society 
    • Understand your strengths and how you can bring them to bear to do public good work. What do you bring to the work? Where are you naturally inclined to go? How do your strengths and talents intersect with what you care about? From there, determine what you can do to work toward the change you seek. 
  • [Knowledge] Contextualize a Social Justice Issue

    Social Justice Issue Contextualization includes

    • Root causes 
    • Historical context 
    • knowledge of current and previous social movements 
    • Awareness of the systems upholding injustices
  • [Skill] Develop Relationships

    Students should develop relationships rooted in: 

    • Reciprocity  
    • Mutuality  
    • Collaboration 
  • [Skill] Use an Anti-oppression Analysis

    Students should use Anti-oppression analysis to inform action, including 

    • Developing a critical self-awareness of one’s identities 
    • Analysis of privilege 
    • Engage in constant critical reflection 
    • Four I's of Oppression (ideological, institutional, interpersonal, internalized) 
    • Centering the knowledge/voices of the communities most impacted by injustice and systemic oppression 
    • Actively working against white supremacy 
  • [Knowledge] Understand Civic and Democratic Processes.

    To change the system, you first must understand how it works. Democratic engagement is the practice of engaged citizenship; engaging in politics and political processes such as voting, engaging in dialogue and deliberation, discerning credible information, and familiarity with how government, legislation, and policy work. Civic engagement is the process of applying your knowledge, skills, and commitments to public life, working collaboratively to solve public problems (whether through political or non-political processes).

  • [Knowledge] Understand a variety of Social Change Actions

    Social change actions include:

    • direct service,
    • policy change,  
    • grassroots collective action, 
    • direct action community organizing,  
    • mutual aid, etc. 


Why Engage with CCESL Student Programs?

All CCESL Student Programs expose students to these concepts. Programs focus on various levels of depth and complexity from awareness and knowledge, to skill development, to application through action, then application through integration across experiences/programs/activities, and finally adaptation, moving beyond your own project and contributing to our shared understanding. The aim is to build students’ knowledge, skills, and commitments over time.