Communication and Community: Explorations in strategic communication and social entrepreneurship

Submitted by Community Animator on March 23, 2015 - 6:18am
Integrating Community Conversations into Curriculum at Carleton University

In Dr. David Nostbakken’s fourth year Communication and Community: Explorations in strategic communication and social entrepreneurship course at Carleton University in the School of Journalism and Communication, the class is more of a community than a traditional course.  The course is built, with a healthy disrespect for marks, on the basis of what matters to the students in the class.  They accept, in this course, as a motto that failure is succeeding at something that does not matter.

The two central themes of the course are strategic communication and social entrepreneurship.  Students form groups to work with existing organizations and agencies to improve strategic communication in the communities they serve, or to undertake the creation of new companies from scratch in social entrepreneurial fashion to deal with matters of health, self-expression, poverty, bullying, and a range of issues that touch the students.

As part of this interactive course, representatives from a variety of organizations are invited to meet with students in class or via teleconference. Paul Born has been among these guest lecturers.  Paul's book Community Conversation has been integrated into the curriculum as a central text on community and the processes of listening, engaging, and moving forward for positive change.  

Each week the students are required to write a blog.  The first blog is on "What matters".  Students read each other’s blogs each week and we discuss them as well.  David has found that many students choose use these blogs as an opportunity to reflect on Paul’s Book or his lecture.

Here is what some students had to say about their experience with the book and Paul’s presentation:

Although Paul Born had a conversation with us via Skype, his presence was evident through each person who was eagerly listening in the classroom. From his personal reflections to his relevant experiences, Paul uplifted the various topics and concepts we had covered up to that time by connecting them with his publication, Community Conversations (2012).”

Paul Born’s enlightening testimony on his work with non-profit advocacy organizations was a breath of fresh air. His expose on the challenges and rewards of collective community engagement provided a practical, efficient vision of how to co-opt key actors in a vision of voluntary society.”

“He advocated that there was no quick remedy or fast track to success. Rather, he described that strategic, methodical changes must be implemented. The route to social change is not synonymous with the glamourous, fast paced environment of the airport; rather, it is reminiscent of the village.”

In his book, Paul explores dialogue and its purposes in-depth. However, the purposes themselves can be summarized into two categories: to create space (for knowledge, understanding, and trust) and to learn together (for a diverse group to acquire a common understanding overtime) (22-23). Both are equally important and both were applicable to the discussion we had with Paul.”

Having the chance to have a discussion with Paul Born, the founder of Tamarack: An Institute for Community Engagement and the author of Community Conversations, was a very beneficial and unique experience that is rarely presented in university courses.  From the outset of the discussion it was clear that Born was not a typical university guest speaker, as he engaged with us in a more personal manner. This was evident by his request that all of the students introduce themselves and provide information on what we are studying and where we are from, this is something that most students can say they have not experienced and I believe it allowed for a more open conversation. In my opinion, Born’s dialogue with the class was a real educational opportunity as his concepts, both in his book and those discussed in class, can directly be related to some of the principal themes in this course, such as, our examination of communication strategies, both in strategic communication and social entrepreneurship, used to create positive change for the diverse issues in both our local and global communities.”