What is Community Engagement?
At SUSS, Community Engagement is conceived as an integral part of the University's learning ecology and as a process to empower students to further develop and act on their sense of social responsibility, grounded in real-world ideas and practices to contribute meaningfully to society. Community Engagement is a graduating requirement of SUSS full-time degree programmes.
Community Engagement is an educational experience and process by which community groups and individuals build sustained relationships, applying collective vision for the benefit of the community. Through Community Engagement, students learn and develop through active participation in thoughtfully-organised service experiences that meet actual community needs and that are coordinated in collaboration with university and community. It creates a connection between the university and the community, where the community is invited as co-educators to facilitate cross-sector collaboration and shared resources that help to enhance society's well-being and guide students in their journey of growth to become leaders in society.
What do we do in Community Engagement?
To enable meaningful contribution to society, students are expected to research, discuss and propose a Community Engagement collaboration in consultation with community partners.
To enable students to do the above, all students undergo a pre-engagement Foundations of Community Engagement online course with the following learning objectives:
- Clarify personal values;
- Develop a working knowledge of the basic principles and theories of community engagement;
- Apply Kolb's Experiential Learning Cycle in reflecting on community engagement;
- Identify good practices and case studies in collaborating with community; and
- Framework for managing community engagement programmes.
Subsequently, students could research and understand more deeply about a social issue of their interest. Leveraging on individuals' strengths, skills and/or professional major, students will propose a sustainable Community Engagement endeavour that meets the needs identified by their local community partner over a period required by the community partner. In return, the community partner collaborates with SUSS Office of Service-Learning and Community Engagement (OSLCE) to mentor students in both project and personal development.
What types of Community Engagement Programme Options are available?
At SUSS, we value Student Voice as a key element of Community Engagement. Therefore, SUSS emphasises student autonomy, empowering students to propose self-directed and self-driven Community Engagement initiatives, around the multiple options provided. No one Community Engagement programme option is considered better than the other – the important thing is to prioritise the needs of the community in determining an appropriate programme , and to balance the needs of the community with a commitment level that is also realistic, achievable and sustainable for you.
The community engagement graduation requirement for students from Cohort 2018 onwards may be fulfilled through one of five Community Engagement Programme options (see Table 1):
While you embark on your Community Engagement Programmes locally, you should adopt a sustainable and global outlook to the potential impact and benefits that your programme may bring both locally and globally.
Your efforts and commitment in serving the local commdunity are situated in the larger context of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals to transform our world.
1. Community Service-Learning
2. Community Engaged Work Attachment/ Internship
3. Social Entrepreneurship
4. Community Engaged Project
5. Global Service-Learning
The following are suggested social sectors that you may consider proposing a Community Engagement Programme (group/initiative).
- Animal Welfare
- Biodiversity/Conservation/Environment/Food Security/Nature/Sustainability
- Community-building (e.g. active citizenship, active contribution to SUSS community, etc.)
- Diversity & Inclusion (e.g. human rights, special needs, disabilities, women's rights, migrant workers, new communities, interfaith understanding, ex-offenders, etc.)
- Health/Well-being (e.g. mental health, drugs & substance abuse, personal financial management etc.)
- Poverty (e.g. single-parent families, silent workers, etc.)
- Vulnerable Children/Youth
Details on the five Community Engagement Programme options can be found here.
If I had worked in or currently perform volunteer work with a social service organisation (local and/or overseas), do I still need to fulfil the Community Engagement graduation requirement?
Yes, you still need to. While SUSS values students' prior community engagement, volunteer work undertaken prior to students' completion of SUSS's Foundations of Community Engagement e-module cannot be considered towards fulfilment of the Community Engagement graduation requirement.
If I had worked in or currently perform volunteer work/internship with a social service organisation/non-profit organisation/social enterprise, can I continue that project to fulfil the Community Engagement Programme requirement?
Yes. If you have previously volunteered/interned or are currently volunteering/interning with a social service organisation/non-profit organisation/social enterprise, you may consider proposing a Community Engagement collaboration with the same organisation in fulfilment of your Community Engagement graduation requirement. As with all other Community Engagement proposals, acceptance of your proposed Community Engagement collaboration is dependent on approval from both your proposed community partner and SUSS OSLCE.
Is there a minimum number of hours that we have to fulfil?
At SUSS, we value Community Voice as a key element of Community Engagement. Therefore, there is no minimum number of hours that you have to fulfil. The rationale for this is to empower you to negotiate a Community Engagement commitment with your community partner that prioritises the needs of the community over institution-mandated requirements for Community Engagement.
For documentation purposes, student leaders are required to record the number of hours served by their team members. These service hours are to be verified by your community partner mentor. However, the number of service hours are not taken into consideration in the assessment of your Community Engagement graduation requirement.
How long is the Community Engagement commitment?
The fulfilment of Community Engagement graduating requirement differs according to the option(s) you have chosen.
The duration of engagement should be an agreement between you and your community partner based on the principle of serving the needs of the community and balancing what you can achieve on a sustainable basis. For example, you may adjust your group's involvement during the exam period, provided your community partner is agreeable.
Beyond graduation requirement, however, you are highly encouraged to embark on more than one option of Community Engagement OR continue your Community Engagement commitment beyond the agreed duration, preparing yourselves for active and fulfilling lives through a lifelong commitment to contributing meaningfully to society.
What is the required minimum/maximum number of team members?
The minimum number for each initiative is one person. There is no maximum number. The number of team members should be negotiated in consultation with your community partner.
Based on the needs of the community, you should recruit the appropriate number of team members to be able to perform meaningful service. We should not burden the community partner to accept more members than they are willing and able to.
For group projects, taking into account meaningful contribution by each team member and the team dynamics, it is recommended that each project should have no more than 20 members.
Must we form teams based on our Team Building group?
No, the choice is yours. You may choose to work with like-minded peers, or collaborate with others beyond SUSS.
Can a Community Engagement Programme be done individually or in a team? Is collaboration with non-SUSS parties allowed?
Yes, the choice is yours. You may choose to embark on Community Engagement either as:
- an individual;
- a team comprising only SUSS members; or
- a team comprising non-SUSS members.
The choice to engage the community as an individual or as a team (and if as a team, who the members should comprise) should best reflect the needs of the community you are choosing to engage with.
In other words, choose to collaborate as a team, if a team is necessary to carry out the service required by the community, and choose to collaborate with members who will best bring the skillsets and attitudes that are beneficial to the community you are working with.
I have been volunteering for a period of time already and I would like to include it as my Community Engagement proposal. However, it is not an initiative by me but I would like to continue. Do I need to submit the Community Engagement Proposal form?
Yes, this is aligned with the principle of sustainability that we encourage. Please submit the SUSS CE Proposal form so that we can liaise with your community partner for project and personal development. In addition, you should consider how you can deepen your involvement in the social issue that you are passionate about.
Is there a deadline to join a Community Engagement Programme?
You are encouraged to start the community engagement journey and submit your SUSS CE Proposal as soon as possible, preferably by the 2nd semester of Year 1 study, and no later than Semester 1 of Year 3 study.
What happens if I cannot find a Programme (group/initiative) to join, or a Programme (group/initiative) that I am interested in?
We encourage you to dig deep and think about the social issues or causes that matter personally to you. If you have not found any peers who are initiating something you are interested in, why not consider initiating one yourself? You can approach your CE Cohort Mentors for consultations.
Alternatively, you may want to approach your Community Engagement from the perspective of addressing the most pressing social needs in our society today. This article presents some relevant research findings.
Can I join a Programme (group/initiative) that has already made progress? For example, some groups have already started their Community Engagement Initiatives during the second semester of their first year of study, would one still be allowed to join them?
Yes, this is subject to the agreement of the Community Engagement group and their community partner. For official acknowledgement of the addition of new member(s), the group leader must submit an updated SUSS CE Proposal form, including the name(s) of the new member(s) and the community partner's official acknowledgement of the participation of the new member(s).
Can I join more than one Community Engagement Programme (group/initiative)?
Yes, you are highly encouraged to embark on more than one option of Community Engagement preparing yourselves for active and fulfilling lives through a lifelong commitment to contributing meaningfully to society.
Is there a list of existing Community Engagement Programme (group/initiative) for us to choose from?
Yes, you can find more information about existing and potential programme options and community partners here.
What should I look out for if I want to start an initiative with a new community partner?
Before embarking on a Community Engagement initiative with a new community partner, here are some questions you may consider:
- Does my proposed new initiative match the needs identified by the community? Is it meaningful to the community?
- Does the proposed community engagement align with the key elements of Community Engagement? Is the engagement meaningful to the participants? Is learning inherent in the service?
- Does the engagement leverage on the skills and knowledge of the team? Does my team have the requisite skills? If not, can training be arranged, or am I able to recruit others with the necessary skills?
- Support & Relationships
- Does the community agency have the capacity to work with my group? Will our presence be a burden or help to the staff?
- Is the programme option manageable? Are there any safety or national standards to adhere to in the execution of this programme option?
- Do I have access to the resources (physical, social, administrative, time, funds, etc.) required for this initiative?
- Does the engagement empower the community to continue the work to serve themselves and others?
How should I choose which Community Engagement Programme Option to embark on?
Here is a rough guideline on how you can go about choosing your options.
Where can we find funding for our Community Engagement Programmes?
SUSS OSLCE has curated a range of scholarships and grants from government agencies, corporations and foundations to minimise any financial barriers while serving the community. You can access this link to find out more information about funding application.
What should I do if I want to change my Community Engagement group?
You should inform your student leader and communicate with your community partner to request for permission to withdraw from the group. If the community partner chooses to write an acknowledgement of your past commitments to the organisation, you may then submit your commitment in fulfilment of your Community Engagement graduation requirement.
However, if your first community partner chooses not to acknowledge your prior engagement due to non-completion of the original agreement, you will need to commit afresh to a Community Engagement (inclusive of pre-service training) with the new community partner.
Affected student(s) and student leaders must update the SUSS OSLCE as soon as such a change is being made.
Who should I approach if I need to book a Seminar Room for my Community Engagement activities?
For room reservation, you should email your SUSS Project Mentor at least 4 working days in advance with the following details:
- Name of event
- Nature of event (only S-L related activities will be approved)
- Date & Time of event
- No. of attendees (any public guests?)
- Arrangement of room (please provide a floor plan if you have specific room arrangement)
- Any logistics required
What are the Community Engagement assessment requirements?
The full assessment requirements for Community Engagement are listed in the Canvas e-module Foundations of Community Engagement.
Who can I approach for further clarification?
You may contact the Office of Service-Learning and Community Engagement at firstname.lastname@example.org or approach your SUSS Project Mentor for further clarification.