Amanda Schwegler

Center for Service Learning releases principles for ethical service

Fri, 05/11/2018

LAWRENCE — The Center for Service Learning, in conjunction with other units and student organizations at the University of Kansas, has released a set of principles meant to guide students, faculty and staff in selecting ethical service programs and experiences.

Kansas ranks seventh among the 50 states for the number of resident volunteers, devoting 76.58 million hours to service efforts, according to a 2015 study by the Corporation for National and Community Service. Kansans are also part of the 1.6 million people who volunteer internationally, according to a 2008 report by Tourism Research & Marketing.

But scholarship on volunteer efforts shows that not all service is created equal. Great intentions, without careful consideration and collaboration, can result in neutral, or even harmful, effects.

The Principles for Ethical Service were developed as a framework to guide volunteers toward service work that is driven by community-defined need, reciprocal benefit and avoidance of common missteps. The principles include concepts such as ensuring that the local community is involved in developing and carrying out the service efforts; that volunteers are adequately trained, skilled and supervised for the service context such that vulnerable populations are protected; that service efforts don’t harm a local economy; and that the service experience works to recognize and address social inequalities rather than uphold them.

“Our intent is that these principles will help students and other KU community members make sure they’re involved in service that’s equitable for the community partners they’re working with and doesn’t unintentionally do damage instead,” said Amanda Schwegler, assistant director of the Center for Service Learning.

Presented as seven questions to ask about a prospective service experience and three additional questions specific to volunteering abroad, the principles are based on the scholarly work of Eric Hartman about fair trade learning. The principles have been adapted from their original international focus to apply to local, national and international service efforts.

For the full list of Ethical Service Principles, visit

Other units on campus signing on to the set of principles:

  • KU Study Abroad
  • Institute of Haitian Studies
  • Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies
  • Department of African & African-American Studies
  • KU Student Involvement & Leadership Center.

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