District C Model Implemented Within School of Social Work

February 2023 - District C Model Training, led in the School of Social Work by Asisstant Professor Alicia Sellon, is an innovative community-engaged pedagogy model that is being implemented within the School of Social Work.

District C logoDistrict C Model Training provides a model for engaging students in solving real world problems. The model relies on expert coaching and diverse teams of students to solve real problems for real businesses and organizations. The District C model has four critical parts: flexible mindsets and tools, diverse teams and real problems, purposeful coaching, and smart implementation. UNCW has assembled a team of faculty, staff, and community partners who are certified District C coaches that are working to bring this unique learning opportunity to UNCW students across campus. By implementing District C Model training, students learn from and work for the community partner to design solutions and prototypes that address a given challenge that the partner has identified. In this model, the students develop first-hand their ideas into a full prototype that the community partner can use.

One of the community partners that students worked with was IndependentWorks. a non-profit organization created in 2019 to establish a safe and supportive community that promotes interdependent living for adults with Autism. The challenge IndependentWorks presented to students was the lack of definitive data about how many individuals have intellectual and developmental disabilities in the Cape Fear area. Without this data, it is extremely difficult to adequately measure the scale of those who need help from the non-profit. Unfortunately, it is also likely that there are significant barriers to awareness and utilization, including economic, cultural, language, racial, gender and other factors. IndependentWorks stressed the importance for students to identify these obstacles and develop strategies to overcome them.

Students came up with solutions that focused on a variety of different areas. Some focused on advocacy, connections, and helping to get more people aware of IndependentWorks and this issue. Others focused more on the internal operations of IndependentWorks and how to help them grow as they started these and other new initiatives as they received funding. 

Carolina Matt, co-founder of IndependentWorks reflected on the experience with UNCW, “This was such a phenomenal experience for us. These students really took the time to understand every aspect of our work and how to maximize the impact we would like to have. Our problems were complex in nature but that did not deter the groups. Every project that was presented during the pitches was thorough and addressed an area of need. With their help, we will now be able to charge forward over the next year with a relaunching event and a set of volunteers that can help us expand our programs to serve more neurodiverse individuals,” she said.

Sellon says of the project, “Completing challenges like this makes us feel like we really made something of value that we could offer to an organization, and I think that is really powerful. This kind of training is so beneficial for social work students because they can develop a sense of confidence, curiosity and creativity. That is something very special.” Finally, Sellon explains that, “I have found this training to be beneficial for social work students and hopes that we can continue to expand it within the college and university.”