Five Critical Elements of Thoughtful Service

  1. Community Voice: Community voice is essential if we are to build bridges, bring about change, and solve problems. Any community service organization should make sure that the voice and needs of the community are included in the development of the community service program.
  2. Orientation & Training: Orientation and training are important first steps for any community service experience. Information should be provided for student volunteers about the community, the issue, and the agency or community group.
  3. Meaningful Action: Meaningful action means that the service being done is necessary and valuable to the community itself. Meaningful action makes people feel like what they did made a difference in a measurable way, and that their time was well used. Without this, people will not want to continue their service, no matter how well we do with the other four elements.
  4. Reflection: Reflection is a crucial component of the community service learning 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.
  5. Evaluation: Evaluation measures the impact of the students’ learning experience and the effectiveness of the service in the community. Students should evaluate their learning experience and agencies should evaluate the effectiveness of the students’ service. Evaluation gives direction for improvement, growth and change. Quality community service should challenge students 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.