Forming a well-functioning community partnership is essential for Service Learning (SL) activities. Scholarship (and common sense!) tell us that a relationship approach is needed In SL. Your students will form a relationship with someone at an the agency or organization. Just like any other relationship, communication (and self disclosures) that are both effective and appropriate work best!!!
The ECU Volunteer and Service Learning Center has much experience and established relationships with about 125 community partner agencies in the area. That staff can be extremely helpful in laying the groundwork for building effective relationships with a community partner for your SL projects.
Still, when your class works with new community partner(s) for the first time, there will be a lot of information exchange! Over time, the relationship with that agency and your class will be better established and the kinds of communication needed will change.
Doing With not Doing For
Before, during and after your course’s SL experiences work to collaborate with the Community Partner. In fact, you may need to repeatedly remind your students the idea is not “doing for” the agency but “doing with” the agency representatives!
A collaborative, reciprocal partnership is really key to success. Otherwise, an excellent project developed by your students could entirely miss the mark-- and not be what the agency really needs at all! And the students could also miss the educational value of really working alongside a community partner. Importantly, the collaborative relationship can help students understand how much of the real world world works. Even when students complete a proposal and present it to a real world client, for example, there is an approval process in place… Service learning can help students adapt to the important differences between college classroom learning and what they will need to do in their jobs one day.