Activist community

Scholars, Students, and Community Work Together for Transformation at UCSC All-In Conference

More than 400 scholars, students, community organizers, foundation representatives, artists, and activists gathered in late October for a one-of-a-kind event aimed at building collaborative partnerships for community-based research and meaningful social change at UC Santa Cruz Conference: All-In: Co-Creating Knowledge for Justice. The event was co-presented by UCSC’s Institute for Social Transformation (I’m standing Urban Research Network and co-sponsored by a wide range of foundations, community organizations, and partners on and off campus.

All-In, held October 26-28, 2022, at multiple locations around Santa Cruz, included five plenary sessions, 87 presentations over 42 breakout sessions, a poster session, numerous spoken word performances , including by Sacramento-area youth speak out (DIT)Monterey County Poet Laureate Daniel Summerhilland Fong Tranand a screening of the award-winning film “Fruits of Labor”. A reception was also held at the Museum of Art and History of Santa Cruz (MAH) with cultural performances by Senderos Centeotl Danza y Baile folk dance group.

“This wasn’t your traditional academic conference,” said Chris Benner, professor of environmental studies and sociology and faculty director for IST. “Right now we are facing a crisis of racial and economic inequality, climate change, democracy and loss of faith in political solutions; it requires that we all work together. Sharing strategies to broaden and deepen knowledge co-production will help us address these pressing social issues. »

All-In focused on the idea of ​​community-engaged critical research, equitable and action-oriented collaboration to achieve structural change and social justice. The goal is to build stronger relationships between universities and the communities they serve by addressing issues of power and equity and deeply engaging undergraduate students.

According to Benner, All-In has demonstrated that the university is well positioned to be a leader and convener for like-minded institutions of higher education across California interested in community-engaged scholarship. Grassroots organizations like the ACCE Institute say they can see the value.

“We want to ask people from universities to come out of university and into the community first to listen and then to help us really understand what they [the universities] are missing,” said ACCE Executive Director Christina Livingston during the All-In closing plenary. “There is real wisdom and knowledge that community members hold, but we don’t know everything.”

The conference also marked the launch of the new Campus + Community Initiativeled by Rebecca London, Associate Professor of Sociology.

“We now have a committed scholarship network that spans all disciplines, across our campus and in our various communities,” London said during the opening plenary.

According to many participants, the conference inspired participants with the range of ideas and examples of effective university-community partnerships stimulated by the opportunities to co-create systemic change for justice.

All-In was originally scheduled to be held in March 2020 but was abruptly canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The organizers wanted to keep the conversation going in the meantime, so they organized a series of virtual events in 2021 to encourage conversation and collaboration. But this year’s event was the first opportunity for All-In to meet in person.

“Colleges and universities seem to have discovered community engagement and the importance of increasing their off-campus visibility, rolling out new programs like service-learning, and touting scholarship opportunities that serve the public good” , said Steve McKay, associate professor of sociology and director of the Center for Labor Studies at UCSC, who presented at the conference. “But such vague definitions of ‘public good’ can sometimes lead to a kind of superficiality that may seem nice and inexpensive, but also doesn’t strike at the heart of inequality or injustice.”

Many All-In Conference attendees yearned to do even more.

“We want to push this nascent movement beyond ‘performative engagement’ – that is, beyond slogans and colorful banners with ‘diverse’ faces and communal handshakes,” said McKay. “Critical community engagement means not being content with the ‘public good’, but working for the ‘best public’.”

You want to know more ? Check Full All-In Conference Recap on the IST website.