Before The Project


Reflection Questions

-Why are you here? What is your motivation for participating?

-What is the goal of this service project/ civic engagement opportunity?

-In ways are you privileged (Are you white? Male? Straight? College educated? Employed? Older? Younger?)?

-How might your privilege affect your relationships with the people you are serving? How does it effect your ability to serve?

Active Listening Toolkit:

Part of what we heard throughout our research time and again was that relationships change lives. Building real relationships with people who are different from yourself is one of the major benefits of doing service projects. Relationships can also be the ground on which real change can happen. However, building authentic relationships across divides of privilege can be challenging, particularly for short term service groups. Groups and individuals can help foster relationships by putting relationship building at the center of their project and privileging it over labor or goods.  We found that groups and individuals got more out of service projects and civic engagement opportunities if they were able to listen attentively and actively to the people who they were trying to help. This activity can help build active listening skills which in turn can help build relationships.

Break the group into groups of 4 (or pairs of 2 if you are a small group). One person will be the speak and one person will actively listen and the other two people will observe. Set a timer for 5 minutes. During those 5 minutes the ‘speaker,’ should tell the listener about a challenge that they are struggling (hard homework assignment, a job decision, whether or not to buy peanut-butter, it could be any problem big or small!). The ‘listener,’ will listen attentively by leaning towards the person, making eye contact (if they are able), nodding, but NOT SPEAKING. At the end of the 5 minutes the two ‘viewers,’ give feedback about what the listener did well (or not) and the speaker and the listener gives feedback about the experience. Then you switch roles. Each person in the group should have the opportunity to be a speaker and a listener.

The groups can also discuss, or practice reflective listening practices. Reflective listening involves reflecting back what you have heard the person say to let them know that you are listening and that you want them to share more. An example of reflective listening would be:

Person A: “My son is always leaving his dirty shoes in the middle of the kitchen and it is driving me crazy!”

Person B (practicing reflective listening): “It sounds like you are really frustrated. Can you tell me more about specifically why this makes you upset?”


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