ServeOhio—Justice Talking Program and Curriculum

ServeOhio is the Ohio Commission on Service and Volunteerism. ServeOhio's mission is to strengthen Ohio communities through various types of service and volunteerism. ServeOhio connects 21 partner organizations and over 600 AmeriCorps members.

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Civic reflection has been instrumental in improving our retention rate. It’s a bonding tool that helped reunite our group.

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--AmeriCorps Program Manager, Ohio

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The leadership development component was an integral part of the Justice Talking experience. Listening to others sharing a viewpoint... challenged me to wade into the gray area of the reading instead of standing on the fringe with the... 'this is how it is' crowd. Leading requires listening, but it also requires hearing multiple sides in order to make the informed decision… the discussions challenged me to improve that aspect of my leadership.

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--AmeriCorps Member, Ohio

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I think that Justice Talking enabled me to be able to better speak up for myself as well as see what others are going through. With my family background, I was scared to stand up for myself prior to AmeriCorps and this experience, including Justice Talking, has helped with that.

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--AmeriCorps Member, Ohio

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The Justice Talking curriculum is an excellent resource. The materials provide for excellent reflection and bonding among our members.

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--AmeriCorps Program Director, Ohio

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I believe the clearest and strongest benefit [of the Justice Talking program] is the team-building and thoughtful reflection it encourages. Our members are scattered throughout the state at host sites, so building a relationship among them is important but challenging. This year, we had an issue within the corps that caused some tension among the members, and I believe the Justice Talking program helped them to get back in a shared service mindset and into a team spirit.

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--AmeriCorps Program Director, Ohio

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When members sign up for AmeriCorps they are excited about the opportunity to serve their community, but once they start their service, they are often so absorbed in their day-to-day work that they don’t have much time to reflect on their experience. [Civic reflection discussions] make their service experience more meaningful by giving them a structured environment for thinking about community engagement and their personal experience in AmeriCorps.

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--AmeriCorps Program Director, Ohio

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Our justice talks were very thought provoking. They helped me look beyond myself and my service with AmeriCorps and focus more on the people I was working for and what they need.

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--AmeriCorps Member, Ohio

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The talks we had really helped me to understand that people have all different kinds of opinions and experiences and just because they are different from mine does not make those thoughts wrong. I have learned to be more compassionate and patient with people who hold different beliefs than I do.

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--AmeriCorps Member, Ohio

Audience Focus

Over 600 AmeriCorps members, program directors, and staff across Ohio

Goals

  1. Enhance the AmeriCorps member experience by incorporating reflective discussion into their training and providing space for members to reflect on their service, choices and commitments
  2. Build relationships and a sense of community among AmeriCorps members
  3. Improve members' critical thinking, communication, and active listening skills
  4. Develop leadership capacity of program staff managing AmeriCorps members by providing training and opportunities for facilitating reflective discussion
  5. Create new resources to support reflective discussion in AmeriCorps programs in Ohio
Participants engage in a discussion at a ServeOhio training in 2012

Project Description

In 2010, ServeOhio, partnering with the Ohio Humanities Council, invited the Center for Civic Reflection to conduct a two-day Facilitation Training. 26 AmeriCorps program directors and staff participated in the workshop and brought the practice of civic reflection back to hundreds of AmeriCorps members across the state. Reflective discussions, known as the "Justice Talking" program in Ohio, were embraced by both the members and the program staff. 

Built on the success of this first year, ServeOhio partnered with the Center for Civic Reflection again in 2011 to further enhance and support the "Justice Talking" program in Ohio by 1) providing a one-day facilitation training opportunity to experienced facilitators and program staff who were new to the practice and 2) developing a curriculum with new resources that could be used for leading "Justice Talking" discussions across Ohio. The new curriculum was introduced to 80 AmeriCorps program staff and members at the workshop and has been used throughout the state of Ohio since. The curriculum was widely acclaimed by both the members and the facilitators, and included 75 readings, images, and audio/video pieces recommended by CCR to spark reflective discussion.

To support ServeOhio's ongoing effort to bring reflective discussion to AmeriCorps members and sustain the practice of civic reflection, CCR has consulted ServeOhio on how to use the "Justice Talking" curriculum and integrate it into its programming. CCR will continue to help ServeOhio advocate and build the infrastructure for civic reflection in 2012-2013.

Impact

  1. The Ohio Curriculum is now frequently used by ServeOhio at programs and events, including with over 60 grantees at a Grantee Meeting in Spring 2012.
  2. Increased retention rates and satisfaction with AmeriCorps programs throughout Ohio.
  3. In 2011-2012, 86% of AmeriCorps Program Directors agreed or strongly agreed that the "Justice Talking" program improved their members' service experiences.
  4. In 2011-2012, 75% of AmeriCorps Program Directors agreed that the "Justice Talking" program helped deepen commitment among their members.
  5. In 2011-2012, nearly 80% of AmeriCorps members agreed or strongly agreed that the "Justice Talking" program challenged them to think more deeply about their impact on others.
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