The University of Commons has adopted the framework of service learning in recognition of its effectiveness in activating 21st-century skills in the learner. Two enablers of service learning are:

Community participation is an active as well as a dynamic process.

  • Active, as it is ever-evolving, and can never reach a static state of equilibrium. Here, community engagement is integral to encouraging involvement in decision-making, nurturing relations, and empowering a feedback loop.
  • Dynamic, as it is the space wherein processes like redistribution of wealth, power, and narrative focus can organically happen. This requires community action that provides transparent and efficient access to diverse views and aspirations in a consultation exercise, mobilizes community resources and influences implementation through collective action.

Multi-teacher pedagogy recognizes learning opportunities

  • Opportunities that are as wide as one’s network of acquaintances and breadth of experiences. This attitude stimulates a growth mindset that approaches failure with resilience, instead of resignation.
  • Additionally, the learner builds a web of thought leaders and implementations with whom he may collaborate for impact, or seek mentorship from. This style of interaction is uninhibited by the limitation of hierarchy and sectoral boundaries.

Experience through service

Leadership Experience: In the mid-1980s, a young, black man was working as a grassroots community organizer in the downtrodden south side neighborhood of Chicago.

Although he would later go on to attend Harvard Law School, he credits these years of community experience as the best education he ever received. It impacted him profoundly, shaping his political philosophy and imprinting in him a purpose for his professional life. This man is the 44th President of United States of America – Barack Obama.

Obama is not alone in crediting such experiences of ‘learning through service’ as being turning points in their career. Many other public leaders and intellectuals trace their ‘aha’ moment to these crucial, building years. It gave them the exposure and opportunity to meet people beyond their existing networks, and engage with society’s real problems. They were champions of communities first, before they went on to lead powerful organizations and nation states.

Build awareness: We stand at the precipice of a global paradigm shift. What we see today are the fruits as well as ramifications of the industrial revolution. While our lifestyles have become more convenient, and information access is at our fingertips, we are failing our environment and children’s future. Our communities are rife with social and economic inequalities, which have fueled crime in myriad forms. If we are to take a step in the right direction at this juncture, it is obvious that we must begin to do so conscious of our choices. A generation of changemakers need to not only be literate and competent, but also aware of social justice and civic responsibility.

Development of 21st Century Skills

In the 21st century, education cannot be limited to the three Rs anymore. It is expected to prepare young people to navigate complex systems and thrive in them. They are required to be able to congregate ideas, brainstorm and approach existing issues differently. It is imperative that they know how to broadcast, create awareness and seek responses appropriate to the journey of the idea. Moreover, when living in a world that changing faster than ever, they are to approach work and their personal lives in manner that allows them to be resilient, alert, responsible and empathetic.

Learners at the University of Commons join as