On Friday I attended an interest session led by Dr. Rollo Dilworth that dealt with planning interactions between your choir and the community.
First and foremost, he differentiated between 'outreach' and 'community engagement.' When we attempt to create an 'outreach' program with your choir, we often are doing things 'for' others. However, when we work toward 'community engagement,' we work 'with' others (Borwick, 2013). Instead of calling up a hospital and asking if our choir could come sing in the lobby around Christmas, we could ask them what they need that we might be able to provide and from there begin forging an ongoing relationship. Community engagement is not about teaching the public, but rather a shared learning.
Dr. Dilworth provided a framework for connecting with community partners cleverly abbreviated as C.O.D.A:
Commonalities with the connection should drive your relationship; even if there are none
Opportunities within the connection should be potentially beneficial to all involved
Development of the connection should occur through an ongoing relationship
Assessment of the connection should occur periodically
Undertaking this kind of community engagement requires 'civic maturity,' which, according to Colby, Elrich, et. al., involves understanding, motivation, and skills. When asking permission from the principal or school board to partake in these relationships, we can refer to the civic education students will develop. Once students understand the concept of community engagement and civic maturity, we can continue to develop student outcomes that align with National Standards. Throughout the process, we should allow students to be collaborators. After determining outcomes, we should plan the activities, proceed with the activities, and then assess them to ensure that everyone is benefitting from the experience.
Dr. Dilworth left us with three important and thought-provoking comparisons on community engagement:
Learn > teach
Exchange > change
Serve > save
I greatly enjoyed this session and hope to work toward effective community engagement with my future choirs!
-Laura White, IC ACDA President-Elect
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