Swarthmore’s Garnet Collaborative has launched a new program to advance its goal of building community at the College.
It has partnered with the global nonprofit ChangeX.org for the Swarthmore Community Challenge, for which students, staff, and faculty can sign up for projects that strengthen communities. They are short-term and easily deliverable: Individuals or teams have 30 days to shape and deliver plans, with the Garnet Collaborative team and other campus partners providing guidance and support.
“This is a great way to get connected with the Swarthmore community after such a long time being apart,” says Isabelle Titcomb ’22, a history and film & media studies major from Holden, Mass., who plans to submit a project.
The Garnet Collaborative preselected six ChangeX projects well-suited to Swarthmore’s community-building goals. One of the projects, “Welcome Dinner,” brings together new community members (i.e., first-year and transfer students and new professors and staff members) over a homemade dinner and conversation.
“It’s so simple and makes so much sense,” says Carl Sveen, associate director of the Center for Innovation and Leadership (CIL).
“I think a lot about how seniors are the only students who have been here for one calendar year, which means a lot of missed connections and happenstance encounters,” adds Katie Clark, director of the CIL. “I’m optimistic that [the Swarthmore Community Challenge] will provide an opportunity for students, faculty, and staff who have the time to work on a project together as they get to know new folks across campus.”
Community members can also submit their own ideas for projects through the open-call process and are eligible to receive up to $500 per project for supplies and contracted services. Project teams will write short updates and share photos on their progress.
The Swarthmore Community Challenge is the latest example of how the CIL, the Social Innovation Lab, and other campus partners have worked to develop new connections within the College community, with support from the Provost’s Office and the Student Affairs Division. Started in 2019, the Garnet Collaborative follows a social-change model of human-centered design.
“The Garnet Collaborative is an answer to the question: How can we work together to create a more caring, inclusive, and empathic community?” says Sveen.
Despite the hurdles brought about by the pandemic, more than 130 community members from over 50 departments and offices gathered for in-person and online Garnet Collaborative events in the 2020–2021 school year.
That success prompted the collaborative’s advisory team — Clark; Sveen; Denise Crossan, director of community and strategic initiatives; Nimesh Ghimire ’15, senior fellow in social innovation & engaged scholarship; Jennifer Magee, senior associate director of the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility — to roll out a new project for the 2021–2022 year.