Creating Effective Partnerships
Partnerships are core components of service-learning courses. They are usually formed with community organizations, schools, businesses, and governmental agencies. However, partnerships can also be formed with campus offices and centers, as not all social change happens off campus. Regardless, a successful service-learning partnership depends on reciprocity in the forms of mutual trust, respect, commitment, and shared goals. These foundations take time to build, so start early! Some basic steps to help facilitate this process are as follows:
Step 1: Meet with your partner: Start off your partnership by meeting with your partner either face-to-face or virtually. Get to know each other and discuss what you can learn and build together. Focus on sharing power with your partner and building an authentic relationship.
Step 2 – Share your course syllabus: Share your course syllabus with your partner and discuss how their work and your course fit together. If you are the instructor, consider asking your partner if they have materials they would like to add to the syllabus like organizational trainings, videos, or reports.
Step 3 – Discuss potential service activities: Brainstorm service activities with your partner that would meet your shared goals. These activities could take place on-site where your partner is located, online, or both on-site and online. Also, determine the products that you both want out of the course and that you can produce together.
Step 4 – Clarify commitments: Clarify expectations and levels of commitment by creating a learning contract (LINK). In the contract, outline the amount of time, oversight, and feedback both you and your partner can give to the partnership. For example, will this be a one-semester commitment or longer? If you are the instructor, is your partner willing and able to come to class and serve as a co-educator for your students? If so, how will they be compensated?
Step 5 – Create a communication plan: Determine how often you and your partner will communicate and what method you will use. Regular communication is key!
Step 6 – Assess your progress: Throughout your partnership, continue to check in with your partner to assess how your partnership and project are going, as well as where you both could improve and grow.