Foreword – By Jennifer Woodill, Chair Community Services Department, Centennial College, Toronto
Video on Foreword Message from Jennifer Woodill.
Source: YouTube, https://youtu.be/kUdU8ltslPs
I have always been a community development enthusiast in my heart, and as I read the amazing work of Dr. Hasan Mahbub and other community development experts in the Social Work field, I remember my roots. And I am reminded of the power of community development principles to create meaningful change in society.
Before becoming Chair of Community Services, I worked in the community for 15 years, first in front-line support (working to support refugees and then folx who were experience homelessness, addiction and mental health). I was introduced to the philosophy and principles of community development (and specifically John McKnight) by Lynn Daley, who is Executive Director at the Christie Ossington Neighborhood Centre (CONC) and founded this center as a neighborhood resident who wanted to make a difference. I am so thankful to Lynn for introducing me to these ideas, which felt radical at the time! I dove deep into read John McKnight and community development philosophy and principles, and I was committed to doing my community work in this way. This sparked my work in developing HEAT (Homelessness Education and Action Team), which was made up of homeless and housed individuals coming together to education others about homeless and to jointly take action in the neighborhood. HEAT was incredible, as part of community development is bringing people together who are living in close proximity but otherwise are separate from each other. Most of the housed community members in HEAT had never spoken to a homeless community member and vice versa. We ended up doing a lot of great work together, including educational workshops in the local schools, neighborhood gardening and beautification projects and conversation cafes within our small storefront space on Bloor St West.
When I transitioned to being a Volunteer Coordinator, I brought my principles of community development with me, and quickly realized that volunteer ‘management’ was a separate discipline that was developed from an HR/hiring framework and not from a CD lens. I did some writing and speaking on the need to change our framework for volunteer development (I hated to use the word ‘management’ in the same sentence as volunteers!) to try to shift the narrative.
Life sometimes comes full circle, and this book certainly feels that way. I met Dr. Hasan Mabub in March 2012 when I was leading a certificate course on ‘The Fundamental Principles of Effective Volunteer Management’ at York University. Hasan approached me after the session was over with his warm and friendly manner, thanking me and asking if he can connect with me on LinkedIn. He was so lovely and friendly and while we had an exchange that day that was probably less than 3 minutes, Hasan left an impression. Fast-forward 2 years later, and I shifted careers and I was now working at Centennial College. I needed to hire part-time faculty for our Social Service Worker Programs, and I put out a message on my LinkedIn. Hasan responded, applied and was interviewed to teach, wowed me with his resume and incredible experience, and the rest is history (well – 10 years of Hasan’s hard work including him completing 2 degrees, taking on several different positions within our Community Services Department and becoming a full-time faculty member!).
I remember inviting Hasan to come to a session about Open Education Resources at Centennial College about 4 years ago (before the COVID pandemic) and he enthusiastically (as always) agree to join me! I was intrigued by the concept of OERs and I loved principles behind it, but I had no idea how to get started with it. But this session sparked both Hasan and my enthusiasm! I continued to have Open Pedagogy and OERs in the back of my mind as we moved through our work and our days. Fast-forward to a few years later, when our new Centennial College Academic Plan was released. I read our Academic Plan, and truly I am inspired by its aspirational vision and as a Chair, I want our incredible plan to come to live in our Community Services Department. I love the Wildly Important Goals that jolt me awake, and when I read this WIG: “Embrace the open-access revolution, creating, adopting and adapting Open Educational Resources” (p. 44), I knew that I needed to jump into action. So as the COVID pandemic raged through the world and I was stuck inside my house, I met (through zoom, of course) with Professor Paula Demacio who is an expert (and enthusiast!) in open pedagogy and OERs, and she inspired me to create an OER plan for our Community Services Department. I then worked with my amazing faculty team and we got started on OER planning and OER work. Hasan was enthusiastic in jumping in to this, and here we are with this incredible open education resources on Community Development. Paula Demacio continues to inspire me, and we simply wouldn’t be here without her.
I hope that this resource not only inspires our Centennial College Social Service Worker students, but also inspires many change-makers around the world! Community Development is a powerful framework for social change, and especially in these times where we are seeing increasing social, political and economic polarization, this approach is needed more than ever. I am incredibly proud of Hasan and all of the faculty who have contributed to this book with their passion and expertise and have taken the time to share their stories. Happy reading!