Establishing Strong Partnerships

Best Practices

1. Do your research

Research the agency history, mission, and related social issues before making contact. Once contact is made, take care to learn about the agency/clientele’s assets (i.e. not just the challenges they face). Explore their unique capacities, abilities, and histories and communicate them to your students.

2. Ask questions

Ask the agency how what you have to offer might be useful to them. It is a significant role reversal to put you in the position of learner with the community partner as the expert and teacher.

3. Demonstrate willingness to work reciprocally

Reciprocity is integral to the discipline of service-learning. Ask yourself what you/your students are getting out of the possible arrangement and what your community partner will receive. What work will they have to do to enter a service-learning partnership with you? Basic goals of service-learning include community development and empowerment. For these goals to be realized, faculty and community must be equal partners.

4. Adopt a practice of “do no harm.”

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.

5. Include your partner

Involve the community partner in the planning of your service-learning project. Invite community partners to be a part of reflections, presentations, award ceremonies, and related activities. Be flexible if they cannot participate fully.

6. Be flexible

Be open to changing service projects as your community partner grows and adapts. Consider virtual service projects where appropriate. You may be able to help students see the value of service that provides support to community even with little/no in-person contact.

7. Do your due diligence

Meet agency representatives at their office or a place convenient to them whenever possible. When inviting community partners to campus, arrange reserved on-campus parking for them. Visit the agency or service site to note details on location, transportation, and parking that will be pertinent to your students.

The following resources are available to help you select your community partner:

  • The CCELL staff (, 225-578-4245)
  • A list of CCELL – affiliated agencies is available by request from CCELL.
  • Once you have selected your community partner, agencies may be directed to the Community Resources section on this website.