What would be your ideal vision for how the Talloires Network should move forward in engaging students around the world in the network and global civic engagement movement?
To engage students more in the Talloires Network, they first need to know about it. There needs to be more awareness among students of member universities that this network is out there and that their institution is a part of it. Knowing that their university has made a commitment to enhancing its civic engagement role brings a safety net to the student so they know their endeavors will be supported.
For this network to really make an impact, students must be engaged and consulted at the decision making level of the Talloires Network. This would mean either some form of a student representative body or at least a facility for student engagement, like a social networking forum. Such a group or forum would enable collaboration between the students and the Steering Committee. The idea being that the students would be consulted on new policies and strategies, could suggest future endeavors, etc.
A possible strategy to engage a wider berth of students in the Network, but not directly at the decision making level would be to have a Talloires Network student representative in each member institution. This person would be an active member of the student body and would be able disseminate information about the network and its activities to students at his/her institution through a medium which would work best at that particular institution. This person would mediate between policy-makers at their institutions and students. From this interdisciplinary groups of students and faculty could develop; such groups would facilitate and implement the furtherance of civic engagement at that institution.
Service learning is another key facility that must be emphasized and built on to engage students in their locality. Furthermore, overseas exchange programs that are more than purely academic, must be embraced as they involve students practically in the global civic engagement movement.
Perhaps regional meetings could be established involving groups of students, faculty, policy makers, and members of local communities from a variety of regional institutions. The regional meetings could be modeled on the Madrid conference but on a smaller scale and with more emphasis on the practical and technical issues involved in civic engagement. They could incorporate workshops to learn about student initiatives, reflect on best practices and teach students more about civic engagement. Mentoring programs between universities and within them could be established and facilitated at these meetings.
A final point, while student engagement will stem from embracing new technologies and furthering existing ones, the benefits of practical engagement with local and global issues cannot be overstated. Seeing ideas come to fruition and witnessing the impact that initiatives can have on the lives of others, will undoubtedly create a passion for civic engagement that will not falter.
I hope these suggestions have been helpful in creating a student voice among the Talloires Network.