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Bringing Organizations Back In: Perspectives on Service-Learning, Community Partnership and Democratic Thinking in a Voter Engagement Project

Jennifer Jackman, Tiffany Gayle Chenault, Joy Winkler


The potential of service-learning to foster democratic thinking is often unrealized. The absence of political learning in service-learning has been a subject of particular concern. Drawing on student reflections, pre- and post-test surveys and the perspectives of two faculty members and a community organizer, this article examines the ways in which a year-long, interdisciplinary voter engagement service-learning partnership between a community-based organization and a public university promoted democratic thinking and democratic action. The project helped students understand issues of inequality situated in voting rights, race and class; strengthened relationships between the community and university; and contributed to voter participation. Students came to see organizations, activism and public policy as important antidotes to political inequality. We argue that partnerships with advocacy groups to support political change constitute an important aspect of educating for democracy; these collaborative endeavors challenge views of politics that negate the importance of government, political participation and collective action.

Keywords: democratic thinking, voting, organizational partnerships, inequality

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Partnerships is sponsored by North Carolina Campus Compact, and hosted by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. ISSN: 1944-1061
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