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History of CACSL

Community service-learning has been an accepted and widely implemented pedagogy in the United States for several decades. More recently, there has been growth in similar programs in many other countries, e.g., Australia and England. Although there have been examples of small initiatives over the past decade, it has really only been in the last few years that this pedagogical approach has gained more widespread recognition and support on Canadian campuses. A true pioneer on the national scene has been St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, funded by the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation in 1999 to expand their service-learning program on campus. The generous invitation from St. FX in 2001 to Canadian institutions of higher learning who were practicing and/or interested in service-learning to gather for a three day symposium on Service-Learning in Canada was the catalyst for a grassroots network of professional Canadian colleagues interested in this pedagogy.

From that time to the present, the Canadian Alliance for Community Service-Learning has been steadily evolving. An annual conference, organized on a rotating voluntary basis by staff at network institutions, has taken place in 2002 at the University of Guelph, in 2003 at the University of British Columbia, and in 2004 at the University of Ottawa. In 2002, a national listserv was established, hosted and moderated by the University of Guelph. This listserv is an open list, accessible to anyone interested in community service-learning and has been a valuable communication and resource-sharing tool. In 2003, UBC led an initiative to form a national steering committee with specific goals to create a national association to promote and support CSL in Canada, especially through exploring funding opportunities for both individual campus CSL programs and the national association. In 2004, the Steering Committee presented, through the listserv and to participants at our Ottawa meeting, draft documents regarding a name, vision, and mission for our developing association.

At the conclusion of the Ottawa conference, the assembled colleagues committed support to the Steering Committee to pursue funding opportunities for general support of CSL programs in Canadian post-secondary institutions, and specifically for the establishment of a formal national CSL association. In October 2004, funds were secured from the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation to establish the Canadian Alliance for Community Service-Learning (CACSL). This developing national association of faculty and professional staff from post-secondary institutions is dedicated to providing support for community service-learning programs across our nation.



In June 2007 w e decided to change one word in our organization’s name; no longer referring to ourselves as an ‘association’, we have chosen ‘ALLIANCE’ to more truly reflect a vision of a collaborative, supportive network of CSL colleagues and programs across Canada. CACSL includes each of you and the CSL initiatives you are planning and doing through community/campus partnerships.

Together, we are the Canadian Alliance for Community Service-Learning!