Source: Tanis Vye Mihalynuk & Sarena D. Seifer, Community Campus Partnerships for Health, September 2002; Updated: NSLC Staff, October 2004
Partnerships serve as the foundation of service-learning programs in higher education. These partnerships can exist in different configurations depending on the nature of the program: between faculty and community agency staff, between academic institution and community agency, between student and community agency client, faculty and student, and so forth. This document focuses on service-learning partnerships between faculty and community agency staff, and between academic institution and community agency. It is written for administrators, faculty and staff from colleges and universities who seek to strengthen their service-learning partnerships. You may wish to consult the related tribal NSLC fact sheet on "Building Effective Partnerships for Service-Learning"
As you review this document, consider the following questions:
- How can you build a solid foundation by developing a trusting relationship with your community partners?
- What strategies will you use to achieve 'gain-gain' relationships, whereby your community partners and your academic institution both benefit from student participation in service-learning?
- How can you move away from the 'community as placement site' model to the 'community as partner' model of students serving and learning in community settings?
- How can you build partnerships into all aspects of service-learning?
Forging service-learning partnerships can be challenging, but fortunately there are principles and best practices that can make the task less daunting. An initial step is the development of relationships with key individuals within community-based organizations. There are many ways to do this; below are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Build on existing faculty, staff and student relationships with the community. Identify the faculty, staff or students who are already involved in community service, community-based education and community-based research. Which community organizations and coalitions are they connected to? Explore how these relationships might be strengthened and expanded.
- Contact the office of service-learning (or equivalent entity) on your campus. On many campuses there exists an office of service-learning, community service or collegiate volunteers that serves as a "matchmaker" between faculty and community-based organizations. Resources may be available there, from community connections to funding sources to support partnership development.
- Contact your local United Way. The United Way can be an access point to a variety of non-profit organizations in your community. The office might also be familiar with coalitions that working to address specific community issues.
- Meet face-to-face early on, preferably in the community. Phone calls and e-mails are often an expedient way to communicate, but can never fully substitute for in-person interactions. Meeting a prospective partner in the community, on their turf, can make for a more comfortable and less formal first interaction, and also allows you to gather some important information about the context in which your students might be working in the future.
Assessing assets and needs
Conducting a thoughtful assessment of the assets and needs that community agencies and academic institutions can each contribute to the service-learning experience is time well spent. Several useful tools for conducting such assessments are available on this website.
Assess community assets and needs for service-learning. For example, which community-based organizations and collaboratives already have partnerships with the campus that can form a foundation from which to build new relationships? What unmet community needs or concerns lend themselves well to student involvement through service-learning?
Assess campus assets and needs for faculty, staff and student involvement in the local community. For example, what opportunities exist among faculty, staff and students for community service, service-learning, collaborative evaluation and research? What institutional goals and objectives might be enhanced by relationships with local community-based organizations and collaboratives? How might community members and representatives contribute to policy decisions within the institution, such as serving on admissions and curriculum committees?
Asking these questions early in the development of service-learning partnerships can help uncover opportunities and strategies for success.
You should consider what agency characteristics may be important to the success of a particular service-learning experience. For example,
- Non-profit vs. for-profit status - depending on intended learning objectives, the status of the agency may be important.
- Accessibility - is the agency accessible to students by walking or public transportation? If not, how feasible will it be for students to get there? Is the agency accessible to students with disabilities?
- Safety - does the agency and its surrounding area provide an undue risk to student safety? Are adequate safety measures followed? For example, if the neighborhood has a high crime rate after dark, is an escort available to accompany the student to his or her car?
- Supervision - is the partner able to designate a staff member or volunteer to serve as an accessible supervisor during the student's term of service?
- Nature of service - is the partner able to offer the student a high-quality service-learning experience connected to the goals of the course? For example, if one goal of the course is for students to understand the root causes of homelessness, will students have an opportunity to work directly with homeless individuals?
- Historical experience with students - has the partner previously had students as volunteers, interns or service-learners? How have students rated their experience?
Developing principle-centered, ethical partnerships
Community-Campus Partnerships for Health's 9 principles of partnership can help guide and inform the development of service-learning partnerships. We recommend using the principles as an outline to follow when beginning serious discussions with partners as the service-learning experience is designed, implemented and evaluated. A brief illustrative article on each partnership appears on the CCPH website.
Ethical dilemmas and implications inherent in service-learning partnerships must also be considered. For example, one ethical obligation of faculty members who design service-learning experiences for their students is to avoid harm or burden to the community. This obligation raises such questions as:
- Does the transience of the student's placement have a negative effect on clients, the community agency, or the student's moral and professional development?
- Does students' presence take away from agency staff responsibilities?
- Are students adequately supervised or are they working beyond their depth?
- Is there a risk of the agency becoming overwhelmed by students?
- Is the skill level of the student conveyed to the agency staff and clients?
- Is the client truly free to choose care by the student?
A particularly helpful article that delineates the ethical dilemmas and issues that commonly arise in community-based education of all types (including service-learning) is
Quinn SC, Gamble D, Denham A. (2001) Ethics and community-based education: balancing respect for the community with professional preparation. Family & Community Health. Jan;23(4):9-23 (see abstract below).
Negotiating formal partnership agreements
Codifying a relationship in writing can serve many useful purposes, including: ensuring that all partners have a shared understanding of the nature and extent of their work together, holding all partners accountable for the roles and responsibilities they have agreed to and clarifying legal obligations and the management of risk. We recommend that at a minimum, written partnership agreements include the following components:
- The name of each partner organization and the names of key staff from each organization
- Each partner's expectations and anticipated benefits of the partnership
- The roles, responsibilities and key tasks for each partner, along with a corresponding timeline
- The partnership's intended outcomes
- The partnership's financial and staffing consideration, including a fundraising plan if additional funds are needed.
- The partnership's risk management plan and what each partner's role will be in risk management.
- The partnership's anticipated products and any copyright or ownership issues
- The partnership's evaluation plan what each partner's role will be in the evaluation.
- The partnership's plan for publicity and what each partner's role will be in publicizing the program.
Click here to view a sample checklist for a partnership agreement.
Incorporating partnerships into all aspects of service-learning
Community partners and actions intended to strengthen partnerships can be incorporated into all aspects of service-learning: student recruitment, student orientation, community service, reflection, faculty development, curriculum development, and assessment & improvement. Examples for each aspect of service-learning are provided below.
- During your school's admissions process, applicants' prior community service and leadership experiences are considered to be desirable. The school's community partners are involved in the interviewing and selection process.
- At the start of the academic year, a community agency fair is held on campus. At the fair, agencies from the local community that are involved in your service- learning program each staff booths that display materials about their services and student opportunities. This provides an opportunity for students to become acquainted with the resources available in the community and with opportunities for community service and service- learning.
- At the start of the academic year, your community partners design and lead a tour of the community for incoming students. This provides an opportunity for students to learn about the community context in which they will be serving and learning, and helps to prevent artificial barriers between life on campus and life in the broader community.
- Prior to their service-learning experience, students are oriented to relevant demographic and other characteristics of the community they will be working in.
- Community leaders, advocates, and/ or a person who has been directly affected by the issue under study lead an orientation session in the community-based agency in which the students will be working. Ice breakers and role plays are incorporated into the agenda focusing on cultural sensitivity and possible scenarios that the students may encounter. This is followed by a tour of the facility. Refreshments are served.
- Students who have previously taken the service-learning course and community partners are involved in the planning of the orientation.
- Before, during and after their service-learning experience, students participate in opportunities for critical reflection that are an integral component of the service- learning experience.
- Community partners are involved in designing and implementing the reflection activities. These activities take place in the classroom and in the community.
- Your service-learning course involves a group of undergraduate students addressing poor nutritional behaviors among elementary school students.
- Local elementary school teachers have expressed an interest in not only teaching elementary students about nutrition and its role in mood and performance, but in mobilizing the community to address the issue of the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- During the course of the semester, the 5th grade students participate in an experiment to see the effects of eating a healthy breakfast and comparing this to not eating a healthy breakfast. Additionally, the 5th graders conduct a health assessment to determine the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in their local markets.
- The findings compiled by the elementary students and nursing students are shared with the local community.
- Steps are considered to mobilize the community on ways to bring more produce to the community.
- In developing your upcoming faculty development workshop, you consider the assets that community- based agency preceptors bring to your faculty development seminars.
- You decide to create a workshop, "The Role of the Community Preceptor in Student Education." Community preceptors are involved in the design of the workshop, and some members of the community who receive services are also invited to share their experience in working with the preceptors. This allows all stakeholders to share their lessons learned, strategies for effective student learning, and roles that community members can play in the service- learning experience.
- The final component of the workshop is a faculty reflection exercise led by university- and community- based faculty involved in service- learning.
- You offer a package of benefits for community-based preceptors that responds to their expressed desires. The package includes an adjunct faculty appointment and access to free email, library services and on-campus parking.
- In preparing for service-learning courses, you invite community partners to serve on your curriculum advisory committee.
- In this role, the community partners provide input into what courses are most appropriate for the community setting (not all courses can or should be service-learning courses), what their expectations are for the students, and how they may be able to contribute to the learning objectives of the students.
- This committee also provides an opportunity for frequent communication with the community partners.
- When the community partners attend the curriculum advisory committees, they have parking available to them. When they are unable to attend a meeting, you follow- up with them via their preferred method (e.g., email, phone).
Assessment and improvement
- In the past, your course evaluations examined the impact of community- based learning experiences on student learning. However, you have decided to take a different approach; you have decided to examine the impact of service-learning on all stakeholders involved, including students, community partners, and faculty.
- You approach your community partners to determine their interest in participating in the evaluation, including shaping and designing the evaluation, and implementing the various components of the evaluation (ie; disseminating surveys). Your community partners agree to participate since it was outlined earlier in your service- learning partnership agreement!
- Once the evaluation summary has been finalized, the report is shared with all community partners and institutional leaders.
- Students, community partners and faculty involved organize a forum to discuss the findings and identify recommendations for future service- learning efforts.
The following non-exhaustive list of resources, including books, journal articles and web sites, is intended to inform the development of sustainable service-learning partnerships. partnerships between communities and higher education institutions. Please note that there is a wealth of literature on community-university partnerships not specific to service-learning that are not included here. We also encourage you to peruse the extensive holdings of the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse.
Annotated print resources
American Hospital Association, Tools for Change, Community Partnership Development Resource Module, American Hospital Association, Chicago, Ill: 1994.
This publication offers references and resources to assist in the development of partnerships between leaders from community-based organizations and institutions, with a specific focus on improving community health status. The module provides abstracts of selected reading on community partnership development, descriptions of additional resources on the issue, and a profile of innovative practices.
Arches, J., Powerful partnerships, Journal of Community Practice, 2001, 9(2), 15-30.
Using a multi-cultural, inter-generational partnership model, undergraduate students participated in a service-learning collaborative project with immigrant and refugee youths from three geographically distinct community agencies. Recognizing the multiple issues facing newcomers to this country, the collaborative attempted to teach community problem solving and cross cultural leadership skills while promoting civic participation. The refugee youths identified a problem area: the public education system, including accessing services personal rights. Students worked as partners conducting needs assessments, researching information and creating a booklet for use by parents and students. In addition to meeting specifically identified needs, the project heightened ethnic pride and inter-generational understanding for all participants.
Bringle, R.G. and J.A. Hatcher, Campus-Community Partnerships: The Terms of Engagement, Journal of Social Issues, 2002, 58(3), 503-516.
The emergence of service learning in higher education and the renewed emphasis on community involvement presents colleges and universities with opportunities to develop campus-community partnerships for the common good. These partnerships can leverage both campus and community resources to address critical issues in local communities. Campus-community partnerships are a series of interpersonal relationships between (a) campus administrators, faculty, staff and students and (b) community leaders, agency personnel and members of communities. The phases of relationships (e.g., initiation, development, maintenance, dissolution) and the dynamics of relationships (e.g., exchanges, equity, distribution of power) are explored to provide service learning instructors and campus personnel with a clearer understanding of how to develop campus-community partnerships.
Buchanan, D.R., Building Academic-Community Linkages for Health Promotion: A Case Study in Massachusetts, Am J Health Promo, 1996, 10(4), 262-269.
Using select practice variables from Rothman's typology of models of community organization, this case study analyzes potential sources of conflict in collaborations between academic institutions and community coalitions. Based on different socialization experiences and organizational expectations, the goals, assumptions, basic change strategies, salient practitioner roles, conceptions of the client population, and client roles of the respective organizations were found to differ between these two partners and to be a source of chronic, unproductive tensions in consortium deliberations. The article concludes with recommendations for facilitating the development of more mutually trustworthy academic-community linkages to achieve public health promotion goals, including (1) developing a greater awareness of the initial assumptions of academic and community partners and (2) developing a more highly integrated model of community-based public health.
Campus Compact, Benchmarks for Campus/Community Partnerships, 2002.
Outlines the essential features of successful campus/ community partnerships as defined by campus and community representatives at a 1998 Wingspread conference. The publication describes partnerships in terms of three ongoing processes-designing partnerships, building relationships, and sustaining partnerships over time. www.compact.org
Cauley, K., Principle 1: Partners have agreed upon mission, values, goals and measurable outcomes for the partnership, In Seifer, S.D. and Connors, K. (eds), Partnership Perspectives, 2000, Issue 2, Volume 1, Community Campus Partnerships for Health, San Francisco, CA. http://depts.washington.edu/ccph/principles.html#principles
Connors, K. and M. Prelip, Principle 3: The partnership builds upon identified strengths and assets, but also addresses areas that need improvement, In Seifer, S.D. and Connors, K. (eds), Partnership Perspectives, 2000, Issue 2, Volume 1, Community Campus Partnerships for Health, San Francisco, CA. http://depts.washington.edu/ccph/principles.html#principles
Connolly, C., Principle 4: The partnership balances the power among partners to be shared, In Seifer, S.D. and Connors, K. (eds), Partnership Perspectives, 2000, Issue 2, Volume 1, Community Campus Partnerships for Health, San Francisco, CA. http://depts.washington.edu/ccph/principles.html#principles
Freyder, P. and T. O'Toole, Principle 2: The relationship between partners is characterized by mutual trust, respect, genuineness, and commitment, In Seifer, S.D. and Connors, K. (eds), Partnership Perspectives, 2000, Issue 2, Volume 1, Community Campus Partnerships for Health, San Francisco, CA. http://depts.washington.edu/ccph/principles.html#principles
Heady, H, Principle 9: Partnerships take time to develop and evolve over time, In: Seifer, S.D. and Connors, K. (eds),Partnership Perspectives, 2000, Issue 2, Volume 1, Community Campus Partnerships for Health, San Francisco, CA. http://depts.washington.edu/ccph/principles.html#principles
Herman, J. and E. Moore, Principle 8: Partners share the credit for the partnership's accomplishments, In Seifer, S.D. and Connors, K. (eds), Partnership Perspectives, 2000, Issue 2, Volume 1, Community Campus Partnerships for Health, San Francisco, CA. http://depts.washington.edu/ccph/principles.html#principles
Holland, B.A., Characteristics of 'Engaged Institutions' and Sustainable Partnerships, and Effective Strategies for Change, 2000.
The engaged institution is committed to direct interaction with external constituencies and communities through the mutually-beneficial exchange, exploration, and application of knowledge, expertise and information. These interactions enrich and expand the learning and discovery functions of the academic institution while also enhancing community capacity. The work of the engaged campus is responsive to community-identified needs, opportunities and goals in ways that are appropriate in the campus' mission and academic strengths. The interaction also builds greater public understanding of the role of the campus as a knowledge asset and resource. Characteristics of an engaged campus and sustainable partnerships, as well as lessons on partnership and institutional sustainability are summarized.
Huppert, M., Principle 6: Roles, norms and processes for the partnership are established with the input and agreement of all partners, In Seifer, S.D. and Connors, K. (eds), Partnership Perspectives, 2000, Issue 2, Volume 1, Community Campus Partnerships for Health, San Francisco, CA. http://depts.washington.edu/ccph/principles.html#principles
Inkster, R. and R. Ross, The Internship as Partnership: A Handbook for Campus-Based Coordinators & Advisors, National Society for Experiential Education, 1998.
Covers the fundamentals of designing, monitoring, and evaluating internship programs, as well as an exploration of the theory and rationale of internships as effective educational practice. Includes sample forms from campus-based programs.
Inkster, R. and R. Ross, The Internship as Partnership: A Handbook for Businesses, Nonprofits, and Government Agencies, National Society for Experiential Education, 1998.
This book is based on the belief that internships are a three-way partnership between the school or college, the student, and the host organization, and has been written especially for businesses or nonprofits considering starting an internship program or currently offering internships.
Jacoby, B., Building Service Learning Partnerships, San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2003-in press.
This forthcoming full-length book is about the partnerships that are required to support strong and effective service-learning. In this volume, the contributors address the challenges and benefits of developing and sustaining partnerships between university departments, community agencies and corporations.
Lasker, R.D., Maximizing the Power of Partnerships: A Team-Based Workshop, Introductory presentation at the Community Campus Partnerships for Health Conference, Miami, FL, 2002.
Drawing on a review of the literature on community partnership and community-institutional partnerships, Lasker defines and further describes partnerships including the notion of synergy, the 'who and how' of partnerships, including leadership and management, the role and value of synergistic partnerships and concludes with a summary of the partnership self-assessment tool and its utility. http://www.futurehealth.ucsf.edu/pdf_files/ccph2002.pdf
Maurana, C.A. and K. Goldenberg, A successful academic-community partnership to improve the public's health, Acad Med, 1996, 71(5), 425-431.
The authors describe a successful approach that involves a close partnership between the health professions schools at two academic institutions, and agencies from the surrounding community. The Center for Healthy Communities, begun in 1991 and formally institutionalized at Wright State University (Dayton, Ohio) is a partnership among the schools of medicine, nursing and psychology. The authors explain how the center was formed, list its goals, review three underlying principles crucial to the success of the Center, and discuss the major difficulties that the community and academic institutions encountered along with strategies for meeting them. The authors maintain that a successful community-academic partnership must be built on the foundation of community health development.
McMillan, J. and T. Saddington, Service learning partnerships as a catalyst for higher education transformation: reflections on a South African University Initiative, University of Capetown, South Africa. Paper presented at the National Society for Experiential Education Conference, San Antonio, Texas, December, 2000.
Higher education transformation is a complex process-particularly when universities begin to engage with new constituencies and partners. The University of Capetown (UCT) received a grant to explore the potential of service learning in the context of community-higher education partnerships (CHESP). Central to program components is the development of partnerships between historically disadvantaged communities, higher educational institutions and the service sector so as to meet the twin goals of addressing these communities and supporting the transformation of higher education institutions in relation to these priorities. The paper explores the program goals and components, including reviewing complexities of establishing partnerships, and interviews and related reflections of core group members.
Pickeral, T. and K. Peters, Campus-Community Collaborations: Models and Resources for Community Colleges, Campus Compact National Center for Community Colleges, AZ, 1996.
This sourcebook is part of the Center's strategy to provide technical assistance to community colleges and their partners throughout the nation. It describes models for developing effective partnerships. Major areas that are examined include community college collaborations with social agencies, K-12, four-year institutions, business and industry, and National Service programs. This guide provides an extensive bibliography on collaborations, and examines models from more than a dozen community colleges.
Nitschke-Shaw, D., and T. Pickeral, K-H Partnerships Tool Kit, Campus Compact of New Hampshire, 2000.
The focus of this publication is development and support of K-12 school partnerships with higher education institutions. The Tool Kit includes: elements of effective K-H partnerships, resources for developing these partnerships and activities to sustain them. This publication is valuable for both existing and developing K-H partnerships.
Quinn, S.C., D. Gamble and A. Denham, Ethics and community-based education: balancing respect for the community with professional preparation, Family & Community Health, Jan 2001, 23(4), 9-23.
As students enter the community, several ethical dilemmas arise regarding the university's interaction with the community. This article explores clinical, agency, and community placements in terms of the relationships they engender between the university and the community. The article then outlines some ethical obligations of universities and faculty members and ethical dilemmas that arise in different placements. Finally, a fundamental ethical framework that may guide universities and faculty members in planning community-based educational experiences is proposed.
Royer, K., Strengthening collaboration between higher education and communities: lessons shared by community partners in service learning, Indianapolis, IN: Campus Compact Dialogue Series Publication, 2000.
This publication is the product of the 1999 community writing summit, in which community service learning partners gathered to consider campus-community partnerships and the ingredients necessary to establish, build, and sustain them. The publication is designed to be responsive to the needs of potential community partners, to fill a void in the body of service learning literature tailored to community organizations, and to be consulted by institutions of higher education looking to recruit or support community partners.
Sandmann, L.R. and C.A. Baker-Clark, Characteristics and Principles of Community Partnerships: A Delphi Study, 1997.
A three-tiered Delphi survey was used to examine principles of engagement for university-community partnerships. Panelists identified factors contributing to the establishment and maintenance of university-community partnerships, as well as to the preparation of faculty involved in such collaborations, which are reviewed in this article.
Sebastian, J., J. Skelton and K. West, Principle 7: There is feedback to, among and from all stakeholders in the partnership, with the goal of continuously improving the partnership and its outcomes, In Seifer, S.D. and K. Connors(eds), Partnership Perspectives, 2000, Issue 2, Volume 1, Community Campus Partnerships for Health, San Francisco, CA. http://depts.washington.edu/ccph/principles.html#principles
Seifer, S. and C. Maurana, Developing and sustaining community-campus partnerships: putting principles into practice, In Seifer, S.D. and K. Connors (eds), Partnership Perspectives, 2000, Issue 2, Volume 1, Community Campus Partnerships for Health, San Francisco, CA.
Community Campus Partnerships for Health (CCPH) has articulated nine principles to help facilitate and strengthen partnerships between communities and higher educational institutions. This Partnership Perspectives volume concludes with lessons learned from national and local initiatives about building and sustaining community-campus partnerships. http://www.futurehealth.ucsf.edu/pdf_files/PubList.pdf
Sen, Gupta I., Principle 5: There is clear, open and accessible communication between partners, making it an ongoing priority to listen to each need; develop a common language, and validate / clarify the meaning of terms, In Seifer, S.D. and K. Connors (eds), Partnership Perspectives, 2000, Issue 2, Volume 1, Community Campus Partnerships for Health, San Francisco, CA. http://depts.washington.edu/ccph/principles.html#principles
Sigmon, R., Building sustainable partnerships: linking communities and educational institutions, National Society for Experiential Education, 2000.
CCPH Principles of Partnerships
Search for "Nine Principles." Includes 9 principles of partnership, along with downloadable access to resources related to each principle.
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