Develop Effective Partnerships

Log into the Community Partner Database and search among more than 500 service opportunities from over 200 organizations.

NEW! Search special requests for research projects from community partners! Just click on “View Research Questions” in the Database.

  1. Identify appropriate community agencies and partners where students can provide a service and achieve academic and civic learning objectives. Depending on the capacity of the agency, you may need to select more than one agency.
  2. Make an appointment to meet with the volunteer coordinator or primary contact who will set up the service component in the agency. Be sure to discuss at least the following topics:
    1. The mission of the agency and of your work as an instructor
    2. The roles and responsibilities required to facilitate the service experience (including orientation sessions, training, and supervision)
    3. The types of resources the service will require, if any
    4. How the partner would like to be recognized in any publications or media attention the partnership may generate (note: this is typically an afterthought, but an important aspect for preserving relationships!)
  3. Share a copy of the course syllabus and what you want students to get out of their service to help create the context in which students will be providing service.
  4. Involve the community partner in planning and evaluating the structure of the service-learning experience. You are already asking them to serve in a co-educator role by virtue of assigning students to work with them. It will help your students if both of you are on the same page regarding the purpose of the service and the expectations of the students.
  5. Invite your community partner(s) to campus to discuss the mission of the agency, as well as the clients they serve and the services they provide.
  6. Discuss issues of transportation. Transportation to service sites is an important consideration for your students, particularly if they do not have a car on campus.
  7. Have your students complete a service-learning project agreement form with their community partner before beginning service. A sample form can be obtained from OLCE.
  8. Check in with your community partners via phone or e-mail (depending on their preference for communication) throughout the semester to identify any concerns before it is too late!
  9. Invite your community partner to listen to students’ reflections or to view their final projects related to their service sites.
  10. Ask your partner for their evaluation of the service experience. How did it work for them and their staff? This evaluation shows that you care about them and whether students’ efforts helped to serve their mission.


Reference: Howard, J. (Ed.). (2001). Service-Learning Course Design Workbook. Ann Arbor, MI: OCSL Press.