Sharing our learning as we strive to center justice, equity, and anti-oppression in the work of social change
Why We’re Launching the Transparency Project
The Social Impact Lab is committed to centering justice, equity, and anti-oppression in all the ways we conceptualize, teach, fund, and engage in social change. As a multigenerational and multiracial team holding different institutional positions and diverse social identities, we know this work isn’t about task setting. It’s about culture building: listening, learning, co-designing, co-creating, evaluating, and learning some more. We must navigate how we communicate, share power, build trust, acknowledge our mistakes, and hold ourselves accountable to each other.
There will be no end point we can label “success,” only the discovery of more we must learn. The practices, models, and tools we develop will be perpetual works in progress. One of the ways we will hold ourselves accountable to that process is to share our experiences along the way. We hope others may find our offerings useful on their own learning journeys.
-The Social Impact Lab Team
What We’re Currently Working On
Reimagining Philanthropy through Experiential Philanthropy Education
SIL has been a leader in the use of experiential philanthropy education (EPE) – the practice of embedding authentic grantmaking into an academic course – as a platform for students to grapple with the power and privilege of controlling scarce resources intended to serve the public good. Our EPE program, Northeastern Students4Giving (NS4G), has evolved over the past 13 years to reflect the long overdue reckoning with the power imbalance between the individuals and entities whose resources and power allow them to shape the social change agenda and those who are doing the work of serving and uplifting equity-seeking communities. We are currently looking to participatory grantmaking models to guide our thinking about NS4G’s future.
We believe students can have transformative experiences through community-engaged learning. Yet we also know that examples abound of the unintended harms that can result from inserting oneself into other people’s lives and communities with the intention to learn, “do good,” or effect change, especially when they do not share the lived experience of those communities. So we’re developing the SIL Principles of Ethical Community-Engaged Teaching and Research to hold ourselves accountable for optimizing the benefits and minimizing the risks associated with community-engaged teaching and research.
In drafting these principles we drew on the wisdom and models offered by students, community service-learning partners, and colleagues across the University. We are also indebted to a host of scholars and practitioners of community-engaged teaching and research, service-learning, anti-oppressive pedagogy, social movement building, and social, racial, and environmental justice who have informed our values, practices, and aspirations over the years.
Our next steps include
1. Responding to the needs of students’ whose social identities may influence how they experience community-engaged learning. We will workshop the draft principles with a diverse group of students to ensure they account for experiences they have had and alert faculty to the unintended consequences community-engaged learning can have for students.
2. Workshopping the principles with community partners to ensure that they are responsive to any concerns or experiences they have had with university partners.
3. Hosting a participatory process for campus stakeholders to co-design an accountability toolkit.