Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

Different Worlds and Common Ground: Community Partner Perspectives on Campus-Community Partnerships

Academic journal article Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning

Different Worlds and Common Ground: Community Partner Perspectives on Campus-Community Partnerships

Article excerpt

This qualitative study includes focus group research involving 99 experienced community partners across eight California communities using community-based research techniques to capture community voices about their service-learning partnerships with different colleges and universities. Partners commented on their perspectives regarding motivations, benefits to the academic institution and to their own organization, impacts on student learning, and areas for improving partnerships. The analysis affirms the characteristics of effective partnerships of multiple well-established models of effective partnerships developed by higher education, but reveal that community partners have a specific sense of prioritization among partnership factors. In addition, partners revealed a surprising depth of understanding and commitment to student learning, the "common ground" of the service-learning experience. Community partners also voiced challenges and recommendations for their higher education partners to transform service-learning partnership relationships to bridge their "different worlds," and enhance learning, reciprocity, and sustainability.

**********

   I think a great partnership is when you stop saying
   MY students. They're OUR students. What
   are OUR needs? We share these things in common,
   so let's go for it.

   --Community Partner

   Yes, [the community-campus partnership] is
   about organizations, it's about students, but it is
   about common values that are much deeper.
   What we're learning to do, whether we're students
   or whether we're a non-profit, is doing
   something that is actually moving us as a community,
   a path of achieving process along the
   context of what we care about.

   --Community Partner

What would we hear if we listened to community partners about their experiences in partnering with academic institutions? We know that engaging in relationships with members from local communities is central to the higher education agenda (Maurasse, 2001) and many scholars (e.g., Benson & Harkavy, 2000; Boyer, 1990; Bringle, 1999; Enos & Morton, 2003) advocate for community-campus partnerships to become a more intentional component of actualizing the service mission of higher education. In particular, community-campus partnerships have become recognized as linked to service-learning initiatives for providing the service-learning experience for students and evaluating its impact (Bailis, 2002; Bringle & Hatcher, 2002; Dorado &Giles, 2004; Gelmon et al., 1998; Jacoby, 2003; Jones, 2003). In the absence of community-campus partnerships, it is difficult to imagine how service-learning might even exist. The sustainability of community partnerships with higher education institutions requires attention to their motivations and perceptions of the benefits of the partners from their own perspective, however. While reciprocity of benefits for the community has long been an intended hallmark of service-learning practice (Ferrari & Chapman, 1999; Honnet & Poulsen; 1989; Keith, 1998; Sigmon, 1979; Waterman, 1997), service-learning practitioners often do not often know if, when, and how this is achieved.

To date, there are few published studies documenting the perspectives of community members in partnership with universities, and the field acknowledges that this area continues to be under-represented in the overall service-learning literature (Birdsall, 2005; Bringle & Hatcher, 2002; Bushouse, 2005; Edwards & Marullo, 2000; Ferrari & Worrall, 2000; Giles & Cruz, 2000; Jones, 2003; Liederman et al., 2003; Sandy, 2005; Vernon & Ward, 1999; Ward & Wolf-Wendel, 2000). The growing number of academics and practitioners who voice concern about the absence of the community perspective in the literature may be indicative of a growing openness to learn more about the perspectives of community members and a willingness to transform our practice in light of their input. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.