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Establishing Positive Connections

We suggest faculty review this blog post from the point of view of community partners; it summarizes the challenges faced by organizations that work with students, and offers tips for faculty.

Tips

See also Topics to discuss with community partners

Tips are adapted from CSU’s Service-Learning Faculty Manual, Fourth Edition; courtesy, The Institute for Learning and Teaching at Colorado State University.

  • Research the agency history, mission and related social issues before making contact.
  • Meet agency representatives at their office whenever possible.
  • Ask  if the agency what you have to offer might be useful to them. It is a significant role reversal to put yourself in the position of learner with the community partner as the expert and teacher.
  • Learn about the assets of the agency and the clientele. Explore their capacities and abilities, and relay this to your students. As faculty and students shift their perception of client populations as deficient and needy to acknowledging that others have valuable and desirable strengths and insights, they will be able to realize the real reciprocity integral to the discipline of service-learning.
  • Be open to indirect service projects. Consider how you can help students see the value of service that provides support to the community as compared to direct contact with people.
  • Take care to “do no harm.” The community and the clientele are not a teaching or research laboratory. The notion of community as laboratory assumes a false hierarchy of power and perpetuates an attitude of institutional superiority. Basic goals of service-learning include community development and empowerment. For these goals to be realized, faculty and community must be equal, collaborative partners.
  • Invite community partners to be a part of reflections, presentations and related activities.
  • When visiting the agency or service site, note details on location, transportation and parking that will be pertinent to your students.