Choosing a Community Partner

Initial Publication Date: January 29, 2010
Field sampling

Choosing a community partner is a crucial step in developing effective service-learning experiences. First, consider the relationship between your college or university and its surrounding community. Is there a history of positive cooperation or mistrust? Building upon previous successes and being aware of any potential problems is important in building a successful partnership. Does your college have a tradition of volunteer service? What resources are available on campus to develop community partnerships?

Second, develop a better understanding of your community. How do others describe your community? What are community needs? Traditions? Strengths? Third, identify potential community partners by consulting local volunteer agencies, United Way agencies, or other community resources. Finally, once you've identified potential community partners, get to know agency personnel. Take the time to develop a personal relationship with key personnel.

Once a partnership is formed, an effective partnership requires all partners to share a common understanding of goals, operations, and benefits of the partnership. Principles to guide the development of effective partnership include:

Principles of Effective Partnership

(from Community-Campus Partnership for Health (CCPH) Principles of Partnership (1998 –revised 2006))
  1. Partnerships form to serve a specific purpose and may take on new goals over time
  2. Partners have agreed upon mission, values, goals, measurable outcomes, and accountability for partnership
  3. The relationship between partners is characterized by mutual trust, respect, genuineness, and commitment
  4. The partnership builds upon identified strengths and assets, but also works to address needs and increase capacity of all partners
  5. The partnership balances power among partners and enables resources among partners to be shared
  6. Partners make clear and open communication an ongoing priority by striving to understand each others' needs and self-interests,and developing a common language
  7. Principles and processes for the partnership are established with the input and agreement of all partners, especially for decision-making and conflict resolution
  8. There is a feedback among all stakeholders in the partnership, with the goal of continuously improving the partnership and its outcomes
  9. Partners share the benefits of the partnership's accomplishments
  10. Partnerships can dissolve and need to plan a process for closure