Collaborate with Community Partners
These tips can help you cultivate a constructive relationship with your community partners.
Finding a community partner
- Ideally, you should begin the process of identifying community partners at least one semester before the service-learning course is to be offered.
- Consult with Lynn Pelco, service-learning program director, and other service-learning instructors for ideas about local organizations that offer service experiences that would enhance the course learning objectives for your students.
- Visit the ConnectVA website to review a list of nonprofit organizations in the Richmond metropolitan area.
- Identify several potential community partner organizations and meet face-to-face with representatives to learn more about their organizational needs and describe your student group and course learning objectives. Ensure that the community partners thoroughly understand the distinctions between service-learning and other types of community-based learning, such as volunteerism, internships and community service.
- Select one or more community organizations to work with, remembering that you are striving to create an ongoing, collaborative partnership that strikes a balance between meeting the needs of the community organization and providing students with real-world learning opportunities that relate to your course content.
Before the semester begins
- Visit the site location to update your primary community partner contact, as well as the contact person who will be working directly with your students.
- Consider sharing a copy of the course syllabus with your community partners so that they can better understand the academic learning goals you have for the students.
- Determine with your community partner the best way to orient your students to the service site. For example, your community partner might teach a class to describe their organization and, if applicable, present the service project. Alternately, you might hold a class meeting at the service site to learn about students’ roles and responsibilities.
- Invite your community partner to teach a class to present the service project.
- Clarify your service-learning teaching assistant’s responsibilities to the community partner. Establish a regular meeting time with your teaching assistant and the best way to contact each other.
- With your community partner, collaboratively develop any service contracts or service logs that the students will use. Insure that you, your service-learning teaching assistant (if applicable) and your primary community partner contact have a shared understanding about the use of these logs.
After the semester begins
- Schedule several contacts to check in with your community partner during the semester.
- Meet face-to-face with your community partner toward the end of the semester to review the service project and discuss possible changes for future semesters.
- Consider inviting your community partner to attend any end-of-semester presentations given by your students.
- Consider sending your community partner samples of journals and/or reflection papers that reveal student learning that occurred at your community partner’s site. Always insure that student confidentiality is maintained or secure the students’ permissions before sharing assignments that disclose student identities.