News / Toronto

Ryerson University's new community building courses actually happen in communities

Model first introduced by Olivia Chow sends facilitators to meet participants in their communities.

Visiting professor and former politician Olivia Chow brought the student-centred model to the school last year.

Torstar News Service

Visiting professor and former politician Olivia Chow brought the student-centred model to the school last year.

Ryerson University is holding courses about community building where you might argue they should be: in communities themselves.

The Institute for Change Leaders, which launched Tuesday, brings a new approach to teaching people about community organizing and affecting social change. Instead of bringing students into a classroom on campus, instructors will instead join participants in their respective communities and engage them about issues that are important to them.

Visiting professor and former politician Olivia Chow brought the student-centred model to the school last year, borrowing the curriculum from Marshall Ganz, a Harvard professor and chief strategist for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.

Now, the plan is to expand the program to other regions of the country, starting with Ottawa next month.

“I think his approach succeeded because it’s not based on imposing people what they should know, but it’s about what they want,” Chow said.  “We ask people what motivates them, what change they want, what their specific goals are. Then we engage them on how to build a strong team and strategies to get there.”

With the help of 22 instructors, Chow has brought the teaching model to more than 1,200 people in community associations, social service providers and non-profit organizations across the GTA.

Those have included members of the United Way, Danforth East Community Association, Filipino Women’s Network and Toronto Youth Cabinet.

  

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