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A Deep Dive: Vital Village’s Service-Learning and Leadership Model

August 1, 2019

By Desiree Hartman, Vital Village Network


The original version of this post by was published in Vital Village's Blog and can be accessed here.


“Fundamental to the development of a community is the enrichment of the individuals that call it home.”  —Vital Village Member, 2014

Our Network uses a Service Learning and Leadership Model to create opportunities for every community member to advance along a leadership trajectory to build community capacity and engagement. There are five components to the Service Learning and Leadership Model:


1. Recognize and Appreciate Existing Community Leadership

2. Co-Design Leadership Development Development Opportunities

3. Civic Engagement Service Commitment

4. Strategic Alliances and Leverage Partner Resources

5. Ongoing Mentorship


The Service Learning and Leadership Model is a community capacity building strategy applied across our projects. In this blog, we highlight how we apply the 5 components of the Service Learning and Leadership Model to our Certificate in Leadership and Advocacy.


The Certificate in Leadership and Advocacy is a three-part certificate at Urban College of Boston that was co-created and currently co-taught by Vital Village staff and Network partners. The certificate is for community residents seeking to further develop leadership and advocacy skills, expand their mentorship circle and partnerships with community-based organizations, and advance towards greater leadership positions in the community where they can continue to organize, mobilize, and advocate for families and children, and gain access to additional platforms to promote child health and wellbeing across Boston neighborhoods.


Annually, community residents apply for the certificate in the summer. Accepted applicants become certificate fellows and receive a scholarship to enroll in the following courses at Urban College of Boston:

  • Fall Semester: Foundations in Community Advocacy 

  • Spring Semester: Community Advocacy: From Knowledge to Action

  • Spring Semester Externship: Advocacy and Leadership: From Action to Community Practice


1. Recognize and Appreciate Existing Community Leadership

Expertise extends far beyond training or formal education. We believe that lived experience in a community, engaging with systems, and caregiving for others uniquely equips residents to be community leaders.


Certificate Example: Fellows design their own advocacy project for their externship based on solutions they are passionate about lifting up in their own neighborhoods. Additionally, fellows take trips to visit the Massachusetts State House to educate legislators—elected officials and key decision makers—about issues they care deeply about. Prior to State House visits, fellows prepare for advocacy meetings a