The McKeen Center for the Common Good is discontinuing its annual Common Good Day (CGD), McKeen Center Director Sarah Seames announced in an email to the community Wednesday, May 5. CGD will be replaced by a new program called Common Good Project Teams (CGPT). Each team will volunteer with a former CGD partner organization for a period of time extending beyond the typical Sunday in the fall. According to Seames, CGPT will better allow volunteers from the College to tackle projects on a more flexible time frame in order to work with community partners’ organizational needs.
Seames explained that since CGD’s inaugural year in 1998, volunteer opportunities to serve the community year-round have expanded dramatically, leading to a changed conception of the Center’s mission.
“We understand the McKeen Center’s mission in more dynamic terms [than in the past], designing programs to deepen students’ community impact, the relationships they build in the community and the development of critical self-awareness in our pursuit of the common good,” Seames wrote.
In an interview with the Orient, Seames explained that the decision resulted from internal conversations within the McKeen Center, many of which were facilitated by having less programming opportunities this year due to the pandemic.
“We didn’t have Common Good Day this year [and] there are a lot of our programs that we didn’t do this year,” Seames said. “I think we have had more space to reflect on what our programming should be and [make] sure that we are focusing in the areas that we feel like have the biggest impact for the students and the community.”
The McKeen Center will accept its first project proposals from community partners this summer, and will begin work on setting up the projects for volunteers to take on as soon as September. Community partners will be able to choose when the projects are finished, and each volunteer group will receive support from the Center.
Seames hopes the new program will attract the same scale of community participation that typically volunteer on Common Good Day.
“The flexibility of having [CGPT] throughout the year gives us a lot of potential to have even more [volunteers],” Seames said, “but I think there is something about the single day of Common Good Day that has name recognition, and people kind of hold it in their calendar and make a point to do it. And it’s going to be our job to make sure people think about project teams throughout the whole year.”
Seames also emphasized that the McKeen Center is hoping to transition some of the spirit connected with Common Good Day to the Center’s annual volunteer fair at the beginning of the year.
“I would love for there to be more awareness of the volunteer fair that we do at the start of the year,” Seames said. “For people who are going to be missing the celebratory nature of Common Good Day … the volunteer fair is just as much, if not more, a representation of what the common good looks like at Bowdoin.”