Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Becoming Glocal: I think I might

By J.R. Jamison

In late September 2011, Indiana Campus Compact co-sponsored the 4th International Symposium on Service-Learning at the Ningbo Institute of Technology in Ningbo, China.  The Symposium was developed in 2005 as a partnership between the University of Indianapolis and Stellenbosch University (South Africa), and since that time has grown to a collaboration of four organizations with the addition of Indiana Campus Compact and the Ningbo Institute of Technology.  This biennial Symposium attracts roughly 150 participants from all corners of the globe to share service engagement program ideas and research projects.  This year our little corner of the globe, in Indiana, was well-represented with participants, and in some cases jr_at_tianammen_sqdelegations, from Butler University, Indiana University Bloomington, Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus (IUPUC), Purdue University—West Lafayette, Purdue University North Central, and the University of Indianapolis.  I, too, as a representative of Indiana Campus Compact, attended this Symposium, and I’ll tell you why.

More and more at Indiana Campus Compact we get requests from member campuses to support international experiences.  While I’ve always strongly supported expanding the global awareness of, and participation in exchanges for, students, faculty, and staff, I often internally struggled with the global context of service engagement—primarily how a global community is defined and how one could accessibly become part of said community.  The idea of one becoming a global citizen through service engagement—what does that really mean?  As someone who has always been a visual thinker, I’ve often pictured citizenship as a framework of a community filled with said community’s cultures, traditions, and visions of hope that has a reciprocal understanding of the community’s assets and needs—coupled with individual citizen’s offerings —woven throughout to create a mosaic of place.  So could service engagement create global citizenship?  In the past year, I think I’ve been convinced that it might.

I believe that service engagement can create global citizenship—or create "glocal" thinking, a term I more prefer.  I recently came across this term, glocal, while reading Where am I Wearing? by Kelsey Timmerman. Timmerman essentially explains glocal as getting individuals to think and act globally while continuing to think and act locally.  He states, “If we think glocally, we strike a balance, and acknowledge that what happens in the bubble we live in effects others and what happens outside that bubble effects us.”

So why is this important?  For starters, we live in a global society.  We live in a world today where we travel abroad more often (9.8 billion trips last year at an increase of 5% from the previous year), we interact without borders through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and, in higher education alone, there was a 26% increase in institutions offering study abroad experiences between 2001 to 2006 (data from 2006 to 2011 is currently being analyzed); same study shows more institutions are investing time and resources for faculty to travel to meetings/conferences abroad and hosting international faculty.  And according to the Campus Compact Annual Member Survey, international service to enhance global citizenship has increased by 4% (57% to 61%) between 2009 and 2010.  We, as a population, are clearly finding at least some interest, or some connection, to explore beyond our local worlds.

I think, in part, it is innate.  Since nearly the beginning of time of humans, we have migrated, and later immigrated, from place to place.  It’s the search for the next big adventure, the unknown, and in some cases discovering the familiar.  I, myself, have traveled to seven countries in the last 11 years, twice to China.  What strikes me each time is how language, traditions, and culture make us different; though, through visions of hope and sense of community, and sometimes laughter while enjoying a good beer, we are the same.  And one thing we have the ability to do, and do well, is to serve, and we are doing this from country to country despite vast oceans that separate us.  But can we ever become a global citizen?  What are we teaching our students, how are we connecting them, and are we showing them good behavior for which to mirror to help them live out service engagement in a global setting?  I think glocal is the answer.

The theme of the 4th International Symposium on Service-Learning was Service-Learning in Higher Education: Connecting the Global to the Local.  While I read the title of the symposium many times (I helped edit the proceedings), it wasn’t until I was at the symposium when the theme jumped right into my lap.  We were all sharing our stories, our programs, and even some mishaps or two which we learned from along the way; but how does this international think-tank reverberate back into our local communities?  It’s taking the ideas and synergies from the global community we’ve created, and translating those ideas and synergies back into our local communities.  It’s glocal. 


At Indiana Campus Compact, we’ve been glocal before I knew what glocal was.  Historically, when faculty, staff, and students submit proposals for international service engagement projects, we encourage the international experience but ask the applicants to include a local community component—translating for students, and the faculty and staff on the project, how their experience can impact a local community.  For example, if a group of faculty, staff, and students are traveling to another country to work with the homeless population—what is it from that experience that could ignite the fire for faculty, staff, and students to work with the homeless population in their local community?  How can we serve and strengthen our local communities within a glocal framework?  What is it that we can learn about, and with, our local communities from these experiences?  Reflect.

Being glocal through service engagement – it has, indeed, changed my thought process.  As we continue to become global and mutually understand the cultures, traditions, lives, and experiences of those within our global community, we must reconnect locally to mutually re-envision the culture, traditions, lives, and experiences of our own local communities.  It may have taken China, and the coming together of 150 participants from all corners of the globe, for me to see clearly what has always been in my own backyard.  But isn’t that what being glocal is all about?

J.R. Jamison is the Associate Director of Indiana Campus Compact.  He can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or followed on Twitter @icc_JR.

The 5th International Symposium on Service-Learning will be held in South Africa in the fall of 2013.



A group from the 4th International Symposium an Service-Learning at the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China

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Indiana Campus Compact is grateful to Lilly Endowment Inc. for significant funding in support of programs, training,and resources for our member campuses that allow them to deepen their commitment to community engagement and service-learning.