Reflection is strongly encouraged after every service experience — this process is often referred to as service-learning or community-building. While volunteers will certainly think about their experiences independently, a conversation among all participating volunteers creates a stronger sense of accomplishment and establishes a deeper connection to the community.

A group conversation or other reflection exercise provides structured time for volunteers to think and talk about what occurred during the project. This activity can often deepen volunteers’ understanding of the social issue your project addresses and increase their commitment to service.

Before the Project

Before volunteers begin their service, reflection can help them understand the mission and expectations of the project. Pre-project reflection should provide an introduction to the community where they will be serving and/or the issue the project will address.

During the Project

As volunteers are serving, the service experience itself should be engaging and meaningful. Reflection in the midst of service can help volunteers understand the setting, their feelings, and how to problem-solve as necessary. Create an environment in which volunteers feel comfortable discussing the community, the people they are serving, and why their participation is important.

After the Project

Once the project is completed, volunteers should reflect on the project and the community need that was addressed. A community-building conversation with all of the volunteers leads to more effective action by giving volunteers the opportunity to think and discuss their experiences and the relationship of service to the larger social and personal concerns. Post-project reflection can also be a time for volunteers to think about future action around the community need. No matter the method or question, be sure to host a reflection activity at the end of your project!