This website offers an in-depth description of the University of British Columbia (UBC) Learning Exchange as both an instance of community-university engagement and an example of social innovation. Many people who care about the state of the world and its communities are writing and talking about social innovation and community-university engagement as approaches that can achieve social change. But it is often said there are not enough detailed stories that explore what it is like to try to effect change in social institutions. Founders of innovative organizations and “institutional entrepreneurs” rarely have the time or inclination to document what they do. I have been fortunate to have both.
This website describes the context in which the UBC Learning Exchange was created. It tells the story of the unfolding of the Learning Exchange as I, its founding Director, experienced it. The website also offers reflections on the work of the Learning Exchange, most written in the years after I left my position as Director.
The site includes documentary artefacts as well as archival and other photographs. It also includes the perspectives of a small number of others who were involved in the work of the Learning Exchange.
The website also contains archived posts from a blog on community-university engagement which I wrote for University Affairs in 2012-2013.
I hope the material offered here will provide food for thought for those who are striving to effect change in communities, institutions, organizations, and maybe even themselves.
The views and opinions expressed on this website are mine, in my private capacity, except in those clearly-noted places where others’ perspectives are presented. I am not representing the views and opinions of The University of British Columbia or any other organization or individual that supported the Learning Exchange financially or in other ways. The University of British Columbia has not approved, endorsed, or independently verified the information contained on this website. I am responsible for the descriptions and interpretations presented here. The University of British Columbia assumes no responsibility for the content of this website.
Similarly. the people who offered their perspectives on the Learning Exchange in interviews with me and whose words and voices appear on the website do not necessarily endorse the content on the website.
I have not attempted to describe every event, initiative or person that was part of the Learning Exchange’s history. I focus on events, relationships, and factors that were particularly significant to me or the organization and are relevant to the fields of community-university engagement or social innovation. I focus especially on events of the early years of the Learning Exchange’s life since that was the period when most of the innovation occurred. It was also the time when the Learning Exchange team was small and I was directly involved in the day-to-day work.
The story I offer is a practitioner’s story. As a reflective practitioner with a social science background I have tried to offer both narrative description and thoughtful analysis. But this is not a scholarly work per se. For the most part, I have not tried to link my reflections to the work of other authors in any comprehensive way, although I know there are links to the literature on service learning and community-university engagement as well as the literature on social innovation.
The site contains photographs from the Learning Exchange archives, many of them taken by Chloe Lewis, a professional photographer whose artful and vibrant photographs helped us convey the spirit and power of our work. Unfortunately, some of Chloe’s best shots cannot be used on the site because the people portrayed gave permission only for the photographs to be used by UBC. Some of the photographs were taken by me to add colour and life to the site. I have also used a small number of photographs taken by others. All of the photographs are copyrighted and used with permission. For more information, refer to the copyright page.
I have included extracts from recorded conversations I had with a small number of people who were involved in the work of the Learning Exchange. At first I was not envisioning using these recordings on a website. I was more concerned about being able to remember what people said than about the quality of the audio recording. Some conversations were held in sidewalk cafes, some over long distance phone lines. I have incorporated extracts from these conversations because I think they add a lot to the story, despite the flaws in the recordings. All the audio extracts are used with the permission of the individuals I spoke with. I hold the copyright on all the audio material.
Contributing to the site
I encourage users of the website to offer their reflections or pose questions by using the comments box that appears at the end of each article or by sending me an email (see the “contact” page). I will moderate input and will post others’ comments and questions as long as these contribute something meaningful and are accompanied by the writer’s real name. I hope the site will become a useful forum for the exchange of ideas and experiences.