Promoting personal agency and social inclusion through the Clemente Australia Program

John O'Gorman, Jude Butcher, Peter Howard

Abstract


A program pioneered by Earl Shorris in New York for educating the poor and marginalised in the humanities has been employed successfully in Australia under the title Clemente Australia for promoting both personal agency and social inclusion. Personal agency and social inclusion are ever present goals for societies and communities but they are particularly relevant today, at a time of increasing number of people who are unemployed, homeless, refugees or are experiencing multiple disadvantage. Students and staff involved in the program have reported upon student self improvements which are indicators of enhanced personal agency and social inclusion. A number of rationales have been advanced for these successes of the program, ranging from empowerment and engagement to changing habitus. The paper, drawing upon social cognitive theory, presents an integrative rationale and framework explaining the development of personal agency and social inclusion promoted by the program and expressed in their becoming “political”, engaged with people at every level of society. In terms of this integrative rationale, Clemente Australia builds ideas of hope, meaning, and identity into the personal narratives of participants through reflection on their personal and vicarious experiences in the program and the competencies and changed expectancies that these bring. This integrative view can illuminate participants’ reports of the program and suggest ways of making it more effective.

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