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National Community Service-Learning Program

In January 2005, the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation launched it's National University-Based Community Service-Learning Program. To date, the Foundation has awarded generous funding to ten Canadian institutions to integrate community service-learning (CSL) within their curriculum through strong, beneficial partnerships with their local communities. VISIT PROGRAM WEBSITES | VIEW ORIGINAL PROGRAM PROPOSALS


what are we learning about community service-learning?



communities and CSL

According to the McConnell Foundation, a key indicator of success for this national CSL initiative willl be the level of acceptance by, and positive benefit to, community organizations. In the summer of 2007, John Cawley, Senior Program Advisor at the Foundation, wrote to CACSL with a REFLECTION upon their network of CSL programs.

CACSL hosted a group of experienced CSL Community Partners at a two day symposium in September 2007. Together, we explored the potential of community/campus 'partnerships'. Read a REPORT on the conversations and recommendations; in addition, a short VIDEO on the CACSL homepage highlights community perspectives on CSL from across Canada.


This national network of CSL programs provides a rich source of experience and knowledge about this educational approach. Together we are exploring if, how, where and to whom CSL matters!

VOICES OF CSL offers audio recorded interviews and written reflections from members of some of Canada's most interesting CSL programs. Link and listen to their thoughts on the kind of change that CSL has brought to their work and communities.


unique models

Each of the ten programs within the McConnell national CSL program have unique characteristics and are developing expertise with regards to certain specific elements of CSL design, delivery and/or assessment. Visit PROMISING PRACTICES TELE-SEMINARS pages to listen to archived interviews with these CSL practitioners. They are learning about the realities, challenges and immense opportunities inherent in effective implementation of this unique form of education and engagement. Check out the related resources on each page.




Original Proposals



The UBC-Community Learning Initiative (UBC-CLI)—builds on the very successful model for project-based Community Service-Learning (CSL) that UBC has implemented during Reading Week over the past several years while making allowances for the challenges commonly experienced with curricular CSL. By the end of five years, 5% of UBC’s undergraduate students will be involved in curricular CSL in non-profit organizations through the UBC-CLI every year. The Initiative will offer courses three times a year: February/March (Reading Week); May/June (Spring) and July/August (Summer). The UBC-CLI will bring teams of five to fifteen students to various community settings in B.C. where they will complete projects that meet objectives identified by a non-profit community organization. UBC will work closely with Volunteer Vancouver, a well-established leader in the voluntary sector.

The goals of the UBC-CLI are as follows:

Research and evaluation will be an integral part of the UBC-CLI. There will be three inter-related components to the research and evaluation work undertaken as part of the UBC-CLI: program evaluation of the community projects and the overall model itself; assessment of the short-term and longer-term outcomes for students, the university and community organizations; and investigations of theoretical questions related to CSL as a pedagogy.

Click here to view UBC's full proposal.


Lakehead University: Thunder Bay, Ontario

The Food Security Research and Service Exchange Network serves as the hub for faculty and community members to work together to build credit course community-based research projects and service opportunities that foster student leadership, enhance connections to the broader community, and build capacity in civil society around the theme of food security. Our premise for this community-based research and service learning program is that the knowledge gained helps the community build confidence to act on food security issues. This confidence for action arises because in the process of building partnerships, we strengthen trusting relationships, increase the density of social networks, and share community norms and sanctions.

Our vision is that giving students opportunities for community engagement in food security within academic course requirements will establish life-long learning skills to build the capacity of civil society and enhance community well-being.

Our community-university partnership is based on the Contextual Fluidity model, which articulates community-capacity building principles of a focus on vision as a driving force for action; the strength of multiple relationships; the building of shared values; and the importance of participation in the process. It also focuses on having a keen ear for listening to all community voices, engaging as a community member, a focus on strengths not problems, being opportunistic in using a diversity of resources, finding ways to respect and bring out the unique gifts of individuals and groups, placing more energy into the process than into definitive plans, accepting and building from mistakes, and engaging all.

Over the next five years, we plan to extend research and service learning in food security to 25 credit courses across seven University Faculties. This will engage at least thirty faculty members and 10% of the full-time students in CSL-based credit courses. We currently have 14 community partners that represent over 60 groups interested in supporting CSL experiences.  Together we will implement innovative interdisciplinary and inter-Faculty courses that tap into diverse knowledge sources and have relevance in a variety of contextual applications.      

Click here to view Lakehead's full propsal.


wilfrid Laurier University: Waterloo, ONTario

With the support of The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, Laurier will establish a Centre for Community Service-Learning. The centre will enable Laurier to take service-learning to an expanded level of program delivery, as well as broaden our community partnerships, and strengthen our service-learning research capabilities. The initiatives of Laurier’s Centre for Community Service-Learning will greatly enhance the capacity of our community partners. The learning that results will be communicated nationally, in a fashion that encourages and assists other institutions to achieve similar things.

Laurier’s Centre for Community Service-Learning will exist as a partnership between the community and the university. The activities of Laurier’s Centre for Community Service-Learning will be advised by a Steering Committee, comprised of at least 51 percent community representatives. Through open discussion and feedback, the steering committee will provide valuable input and advice on issues directly related to the Centre. Specific activities of Laurier’s Centre for Community Service-Learning include:

Click here to view Wilfrid Laurier's full proposal.


University of ottawa: ottawa, ontario

The University plans to expand significantly the breadth and depth of community service-learning (CSL) opportunities through its Experiential Learning Service, making CSL available in all 10 faculties by 2010. A total of 2,500 students, or 10% of the full-time student population, will be in CSL initiatives involving over 100 professors and 200 community organizations each year. This will provide community organizations with 75,000 hours of additional service per year.

The expansion will be accompanied by significant new support, training and incentives for students, faculty and community groups. The Faculty of Law, in partnership with the Sierra Legal Defence Fund, will establish an Environmental Law and Policy Interdisciplinary Clinic that will fill a major gap in environmental capacity in the nation’s capital, while the Faculty of Health Sciences will implement an Upper Year Public Health Option within its interdisciplinary Baccalaureate in Health Sciences program that will address health care needs in key target areas.

Click here to view University of Ottawa's full proposal.


Universite de Sherbrooke: Sherbrooke, Quebec

Sherbrooke’s community service-learning project aims to transform its current community placements into more structured and sustained service learning through direct student involvement in local planning councils in the Eastern Townships. The project links community development work that has been funded through The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation Chair in Local Development with community placements that have been part of Sherbrooke’s pedagogical approach for several years.

Visit the University of Sherbrooke's CSL website


NIpissing University: North Bay, Ontario

The sun on the Nipissing University crest is symbolic of the illumination of learning.  Biidaaban in the Nipissing dialect of the Ojibwe means ‘dawn,’ that point when the sun is rising and a new day beginning.   This proposal will see the rise of a successful course-based service learning program at Nipissing and the beginning of a life-enriching volunteer partnership between our students, community organizations and Aboriginal groups.  Biidaaban will provide literacy and numeracy skills to at risk young people in our Northern region.  It will support the unique literacy needs that Cree speaking children face as they enter English speaking schools for the first time.  It will ultimately lead to stronger Northern Ontario communities. You may visit the Biidaaban website

Our vision is to make service learning a cornerstone of the Nipissing learning community, one that will enhance the academic experience of all our students.  We will start by building a service learning component into the Special Education/Educational Psychology course taken by all students in our Bachelor of Education program.  Students in that course will volunteer with community groups doing one-on-one tutoring aimed at improving the literacy and numeracy skills of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal youth.  We will build on this by progressively adding service learning components to courses offered in the Faculty of Arts and Science.  Our ultimate goal will be to create a service learning ‘minor’ stream in the Nipissing Bachelors degree.  Students earning the minor will first take an ‘Introduction to Volunteerism Course;’ they will continue by taking several credit courses containing service learning components; they will finish by taking a ‘Service Learning Capstone Course’ in their graduating year.  Students in the Capstone course will volunteer as members of a team, with each student contributing particular academic skills, and each team assisting with the holistic needs of the entire family of an at risk or Aboriginal young person.

Click here to view Nipissing's full proposal for their Biidaaban program

Click here to view the Biidaaban program budget



Service Learning at St. Francis Xavier University has an overall goal of the development, testing and refinement of new models in: support for community partners; community-based research; and faculty development, engagement and research support.

The community partner support model will focus on a Student Internship Program, whereby student interns provide additional supports to community partners and service learning students in the community. A Community Support Coordinator will be hired to design and support the program. The first step in the design of the program will be a thorough literature review on the topic, as well as consultation with other universities regarding their approach to community support, especially those universities using a student internship model.

The community-based evaluation model will empower community partners to assess the value of service learning, in terms of both costs and benefits. Once again, the starting point will be a literature review and consultation with other universities and community groups. An assessment tool will be designed, and baseline data will be gathered. Comparison data will be gathered in years 3 and 5 of the project. This will allow us to test the tool and identify any changes needed to program delivery.

The third model relates to faculty development and research support. The goals of this model are to attract new faculty to service learning, sustain the interest of the existing core of committed faculty members, and produce new research on service learning. Following a literature review of faculty supports and incentives, and a survey of StFX faculty members, a Faculty Development and Research Support Fund will be established. This fund will be available to: support new learning about service learning, offset the costs of developing service learning components in new courses, complete research on service learning, and conduct community-based research in collaboration with community partners. The model also includes the hosting of an annual external speaker and colloquia series.



The Community Intervention Projects (Les projets d’intervention communautaires, PICOM) at the University of Québec at Trois-Rivières (UQTR)

With the support of the J. W. McConnell Family Foundation, the UQTR helps to support the realization of COMIPs through teams of students. The UQTR participates in this initiative with the co-operation of five organizations from Mauricie and Central Québec. A COMIP Committee Council, made of UQTR representatives (students, professors, course-developers, etc.) and representatives from the five community partner organizations, is expected to supervise the production of a conceptual framework and the preparation of teaching tools which will guide the students, professors and community groups in the realization of the COMIP. Also, it will plan and set up the administrative unit responsible for the realization, coordination and support of the COMIP. Thus, models of social and community development are closely associated with the development of this new learning innovation.

The COMIPs will be able to be carried out in several fields in which the University has an expertise: prevention and promotion in health, as well as the humanization of patient care, school success, family and social integration, cultural development, durable and social development, and social economy. The projects will consist of teaching activities through which students, coming ideally from several disciplines, cooperate together to design and the realize a community service project to be carried out in the community. Each team of students addresses problems identified by a community group, with the support of a mentor designated by this group, while being supervised by a professor. These activities make it possible to simultaneously achieve goals established by a community group, as well as to develop generic academic skills related to community service-learning and social engagement.

The COMIPs are carried out in a sequence of teaching activities held in two sessions: the first consists of the preparation of a community intervention project, and the second, of the implementation of the project in the community. Throughout both educational session, students are encouraged to reflect upon the impacts and results of the community service-learning project. In addition, these CSL experiences integrated within the framework of a multidisciplinary project of co-operation, is an excellent means of developing skills such as social participation, managing projects, problem solving, creativity, assuming leadership, motivating groups, and communicating within a multidisciplinary team.

Through the implementation of the COMIP, the university wants to create a true alliance with the social community which it serves, by making its research and teaching resources increasingly accessible through these mediums, and by incorporating contributions from the community into our academic teachings and research.

Click here to view UQTR's full proposal(English version)

Click here to view UQTR 's full proposal (French version)



The Trent Centre for Community-Based Education (TCCBE), established in 1996, is an independent non-profit organization co-directed by representatives from Trent University and communities in the surrounding region.  Together these stakeholders conceive, design, deliver and evaluate a program that combines service learning with community-based research.  In recent years the Community-Based Education (CBE) Program has involved about 75 students, 40 community groups and 15 instructors annually in projects that support the social, environmental, cultural and economic well-being of the local region.

Thanks to the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation’s decision to fund and develop the Centre’s service learning activities over the next five years, the CBE Program will expand to enable 200 students, 25-30 instructors, and 70 organizations to participate each year, serving rural and urban communities across 10,000 square kilometres of central Ontario.  Previously only available to senior undergraduate and graduate students, the expanded program with work with students at all course levels.  Participating students and faculty members will soon be able to choose among three types of service placements of progressive complexity: Service placements, focussing on tasks that afford immersion in the community; community development placements, where students take on discreet projects, working more independently to meet a specific need; and community research projects, where placements are structured to simulate a consultant-client dynamic, with students addressing a research problem and working quite independently.  Placements will vary in length from 20 to 250 hours. Eventually participants will have the option to pursue these learning through service opportunities of progressive complexity from first to fourth year.

Click here to view TCCBE's full proposal



The University of Alberta is poised to build on the pilot project in community service-learning it carried out in 2003-2005.  While based in the Faculty of Arts, one of the first tasks of the CLS Program will be to develop a University-wide network of service-learning related activities across programs and faculties.  Community partnerships are being co-developed through a partnership with the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations, an umbrella organization for the non-profit sector.  For more information on their exciting new CSL initiatives, please visit www.uofaweb.ualberta.ca/arts/CSLhome.cfm 

Specific plans for the next five years include:

Click here to view University of Alberta's full proposal


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