Displacing activism? The impact of international service trips on understandings of social change

This article published in 2011 in the journal Education, Citizenship and
Social Justice
was co-authored by Chinook Center founding board member and treasurer Jonathan Christiansen. The relationship between service work and activism continues to interest him.
Article abstract: This article reports key findings from in-depth interviews with undergraduate students returning from international service trips (ISTs). These interviews examined students’ perceptions of social change activities and assessed students’ affinity toward service and activism independently as well as the perceived relationship and interaction between the two. Using an identity project model, we argue that far from being complementary, service and activism may act as competing identities with service being preferred. We further argue that ISTs can incorporate and model a broader range of civic engagement activities to help students better understand the different approaches taken to enacting social change. In particular, we call for the deliberate incorporation of strategic activist skill-building, and discussions of the history and ideology of activism within ISTs.