The Tapestry of LES Community Outreach Aims and Practices
Compassionate Outreach through Community Education and Civic Engagement Pathways.
Nurturing a LES Community Outreach Praxis.
A Special Message (1) from the Desk of the Director, Dr. Fr. Ranjit SJ
In spirit and essence, LES's community outreach programmes "target" individuals (and communities) who are vulnerable to environmental, social and psychological risks, impoverished, marginalised, demonised, or victimised. It aims to address and strengthen direct, dialogical democratic processes, resilience, empowerment, caring and compassion.
In order to address eco-societal realities and challenges, LES aims to combine compassion, empathy, creative approaches (including technology) and practices with extensive and relevant community outreach programmes. LES endeavours to go beyond conventional outreach techniques by not just ignoring what already works but also questioning accepted popular and academic wisdom and bringing in needed and necessary innovations in thinking, action and practice.
Very importantly, the above orientation, aims and efforts are crucial in meeting the needs of the students of Loyola College of Social Sciences (LCSS), for whom LES acts as the social lab and incubator. We want to be an important part in nurturing a student community that systematically understands and cares for the wider community, particularly those who need help.
By adopting realistic tactics, both traditional, innovative and 'unusual', LES programmes seek to promote deep change and transformation (while upholding a profound understanding and compassion for the communities they serve). In order to comprehensively address systemic problems and encourage dynamic and long-lasting peaceful eco-social development, it will require innovative thinking, grassroots organising, cooperative platforms, and dialogical empowerment with a variety of stakeholders (working together).
Prioritising the development of a new eco-humane community through increased empathy and compassion is crucial, as is pressing for significant changes that offer both continuity and disruptions of the status quo.
In order to better understand the needs, worries, concerns and goals of the community, LES practically supports a variety of initiatives and offers pertinent resources, services, assistance, or information. In addition to addressing various sections and aspects of community well-being, these outreach efforts frequently go beyond simple communication and involve collaborative efforts, partnerships, and long-term initiatives. These include youth, children, women, elders, families, indigenous people, migrants, workers in the informal sector, physically and mentally challenged individuals, associations, ecology, healthcare, mental/psychological health, education, social services, agroecology/food, and the development of social and transformative entrepreneurship. LES is also aware of changing circumstances, fresh difficulties, and pressing problems that require 'quick fixes' to pain and suffering.
Here are the essential, interconnected elements that work together to weave a compassionate, caring community outreach ecology. They reflect practices in progress and aspired for.
Understanding Community -- Its Needs, Diversities, Challenges and Hopes
Practices aspired for: Involved eco-social immersion. Deep eco-social analysis, orientation and mapping. Sensitising to local knowledge production and practice.. Familairity with local technologies. Consolidating information resources and resources banks. Active seeing and listening. Meaningful local learning journeys. Community self-micro-narratives. Community case studies. Recognising new and hopeful narratives and stories. Deepening knowledge and understanding through primary and secondary research. Conducting surveys. Curating and making sense of local practices. Becoming part of formal and informal local organizations. Recognising principled formal and informal followers and leaders. Understanding cultural competence. Sensitising to cultural diversity. Awakening to unconscious prejudices. Being respectful and inclusive. Recognising dignity. Using social tools that go beyond dominant needs assessment (or other community-based tools).
Nurturing A Diversity of Outreach Initiatives (Short, Medium and Long Term)
Practices aspired for: Enhancing diversified eco-social encounters. Doing socio-cultural mapping. Pursuing multimedia documentation. Introducing a ‘language’ of change/transformation. Counselling. Promoting/encouraging apprenticeship. Offering short-term training programmes. Fellowship for initiating Self and Eco-social spiritual transformation, Serving special and topical certificate programmes. Promoting summer schools. Encouraging collaborative educational programmes. Organising critical eco-social spiritual learning journeys. Promoting winter schools. Organising thematic talk series. Encouraging discussion groups. Promoting memorial lectures. Questioning the mainstream and dominant/hegemonic. Offering consultative meetings. Organising communities. Focusing on grassroots and community empowerment. Intervening in psycho-social situations in individuals and groups. Structured empowering programmes. Building trust and confidence. Critically orienting work on new technologies (including AI) to serve eco-social-spiritual needs (not the other way). Being and building hospitality. Supporting innovative psycho-therapies. Strengthening resilience. Campaigning. Offering street/public theatre exposures and experience. Organising public events, conferences and unconferences. Deschooling and decolonising programmes. Attending to needed action research initiatives. Forming and nurturing local, organic or public intellectuals. Periodic publishing -- web and print. Prioritising to importance and urgency. Monitoring responsiveness to existing situations. Building effective and useful and constructive self-criticism strategies.
Building Communication and Engagement
Practices aspired for: Clear, comprehensive, compassionate messaging. Regular internal meetings. Promoting honesty, authenticity and transparency. Ensuring relular special sessions to know each other’s work. Building common understanding and ownership of initiatives. Being resonant with communities and its needs. Ensuring easy understanding in all outputs and public engagements. Tailoring messages to different segments of the community. Critical and sensitive responsiveness to the community's evolving realities and needs. Widely popularising narratives and stories of hope. Providing platforms for the voices of the poor, marginalised and the victim to be articulated. Utilising various communication channels (social media, group media, community events, workshops, newsletters, and local media) to reach out. Avoiding ‘banking’ and encouraging two-way exchange or dialogical communication. Curating and sharing new inspiring stories. Fostering open and transparent communication. Taking and learning from criticisms and feedbacks. Ensuring sharing from monitoring and auditing exercises. Encourage deep questioning and active participation. Fostering trust and direct, dialogical democratic practice.
Local Capacity Building, Collaboration and Partnerships
Practices aspired for. Building community partnerships platforms. Encouraging inter-subjectivity, dialogue and collective efforts. Becoming an active part of the community. Actively learning to walk with others (in diversity) in the service of local community threats, empowerment and democratic expression. Strengthening localisation through local collaborative/partnership initiatives. Connecting with formal and informal community entities. Involving actively local community resource persons in educational as well as other socio-psychological intervention programmes. Strengthening collective glocal (local and global) civic engagement. Empowering community members both at the followers and leaders levels. Shaping youth engagement and empowering youth (women and men). Building local capacities to execute, monitor and follow up initiatives. Empowering community members (victims, rural folks, indigenous people, women, LGBT, children, elders, handicapped, migrants, etc) by involving them in the planning and executing outreach initiatives. Providing resources and training to build the community's capacity to understand itself and address its own challenges. Collectively addressing climate crises and emergencies. Fostering a sense of ownership of initiatives. Attending to the sustainability and local regeneration of initiatives (focusing not just on sustainability but also on regeneration). Working closely with governance structures - government agencies, departments, ministries, parliamentarians, legislators, judicial officers and other related public authorities. Actively leveraging organisational, state or global resources for the community empowerment. Avoiding duplication of efforts or resources wastage.
The short, medium, and long term goals of LES are to create a more holistic and democratic effort that genuinely connects with the local community, its diversity, and its natural ecology to contribute to wholesome empowerment as well as sustainable, regenerative, and compassionate futures. This will be achieved by integrating the above mentioned interconnected, mutually supportive and mutually influencing aspects into a systematic and dynamic LES Community Outreach Praxis.
LES Multiversity/Loyola Extension Services (LES), Loyola College of Social Sciences, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India/2023