Project Background

student reading paper

Literacy Lives

In 2008 the Community Education Program at SFU hosted a public dialogue that involved many members of the HIV community in Vancouver.

We started to learn how rich the community was in resources, people, organizations, services and training; But also how there were a large number of people who were not being reached by mainstream attempts, and who were incredibly vulnerable to HIV because of multiple and persistent barriers.
We wanted to work with our community partners to create a program for community members that would give them the tools and skills they need to better support their vulnerable friends and neighbours.

We know that:

Literacy and essential skills, broadly defined, are of critical importance to people and their
ability to live their lives in the way they want.

Adults often learn best when the learning is authentic and embedded into issues of critical
importance to their lives. There is incredible expertise in the community that can help us as
we plan learning opportunities for vulnerable community members.

Our vision was to create a program that would seamlessly weave together literacy and
essential skills, community building, and HIV content, all of which would be learned
by planning, implementing and evaluating a community project that captures something
the individual learner is passionate about.

During 2010 and 2011 the project team engaged in a lengthy and comprehensive community-consultation process, gathering input and learning from the vast experiences and resources that the community has to offer. We know that there is rich and creative work that exists in the area of peer support training, peer leadership training, and other types of peer work. But what we see from experience and hear from colleagues in the community is that this can lead to a type of “peer purgatory”: the learning and experience gained in these training programs is too often not recognized outside of the learners’ own networks.

What Literacy Lives hopes to achieve, then, is to help learners move along a learning continuum and create and strengthen knowledge, skills and experience that are transferrable and that can be more easily put onto a resume or into a portfolio and understood by the “mainstream” world.

Certificate in Community Capacity Building

The Certificate in Community Capacity Building is a unique program that was approved by SFU’s senate in 2005. It is being offered for the first time in the Literacy Lives project.

The Certificate was designed to be flexible enough to accommodate a number of different contexts and subject areas. The goal was to create a tool that could accredit some of the rich learning that happens in community contexts that is so rarely given the recognition it deserves.

The Certificate program consists of four levels that emulate a step in a typical community project and includes a deliberate and structured interplay between theory and practice. For example, as students learn about problem identification, needs assessment, and research, they will be applying their knowledge and skills in actual community settings. The levels are:

  1. Orientation and Goal Setting
  2. Program Planning and Design
  3. Program Implementation
  4. Program Evaluation

There are three distinct but blended areas of study that are intertwined throughout all levels:

  1. Theory and practice of community project planning, implementation and evaluation;
  2. Adult literacy, academic upgrading, and essential skills development;
  3. Content area specialization.

Within the Literacy Lives project, community projects will be focused on HIV and social determinants of health.