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Community Partnership Philosophy

The Boise State Service-Learning Program aims to create an interconnected network of individuals, organizations, and agencies to make collective communities stronger.

Our vision of community partnerships is like a network of mycelium. Mycologist Paul Stamens explains mycelium “… mycelium is the neurological network of nature. Interlacing mosaics of mycelium infuse habitats with information-sharing membranes. These membranes are aware, react to change, and collectively have the long-term health of the host environment in mind. The mycelium stays in constant molecular communication with its environment, devising diverse enzymatic and chemical responses to complex challenges.
― Paul Stamets, Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World


We see partnerships as a way to grow the strength of our community based on these principals: (adapted from the Bonner Program UNC Chapel Hill)

1. Asset Based

Rather than viewing neighborhoods and communities from a deficit point-of-view, we seek to identify and build upon the strengths and assets of each partner and community. Students and others are trained in this through their orientation.

2. Listening

We also believe in the importance of listening to residents, leaders, organizations, and agencies to understand the assets, needs, learning and meaning that are derived from engaging in a community.

3. Mutually Beneficial and Reciprocal

Faculty, Staff and students who build and manage partnership invest in building relationships that are intentional, aim to add value for each party, and demonstrate reciprocity.

4. Growth Mindset

We try new strategies and value learning from our mistakes. It takes experience to build and sustain partnerships.

5. Leverage Resources

Expertise lies in the community. An aim is to have partners connected with multiple resources on campus, such as the involvement of long-term student volunteers, research projects, and even resource development. That can include students working at different levels (groups, clubs, organizations), connections with faculty members and academic courses, and even long-range community impact goals.

6. Sustained

Because projects don’t begin and end within the confines of a semester we strive to sustain partnerships outside of the university timelines. We aim to develop multi-year involvement of Boise State students and the establishment of campus infrastructure (such as staffing and centers) to manage partnerships and projects. This supports long-range visioning, planning, and even impact assessment. Meaningful relationships beyond a semester of student service can develop if instructors and researchers work directly with community organizers.

7. Focus on Capacity Building

We work on building the capacity of organizations and communities, including strategies for direct service, volunteer management, program development, communications, organizational development, research, and assessment.

8. Partners as Co-Educators

We believe and intentionally engage partners in a co-educator role with faculty, valuing their knowledge about their communities, issues, and approaches for change. Faculty and community partners can design more effective issue-based course content when working in collaboration.

9. Interdisciplinary/Interconnected

We seek to foster connection both on campus and off campus where all contributors are valued in helping to address community challenges, create knowledge (through scholarship and action), and be a part of a larger network of individuals and organizations working for a healthy community.