Our program partners with over 130 community partners each year. These partners are community-based organizations, non-profits, government agencies, and schools. 

A faculty member’s collaboration with their community partner is one of the key components of a Service-Learning course. Responsible and ethical partnerships are central to the success of courses and our long-term vision is that all S-L faculty members would be heavily involved and high-touch with each of their community partners. This vision requires that faculty members recognize their role in building transformational partnerships and focus on co-creating the course service experiences alongside partners.

Building Your Relationship

As a team we highly encourage faculty members and community partners to actively build a relationship with one another whether they expect their partnership to only last one semester or indefinitely.

Here is a list of suggestions for how to get to know your partner:

  • Ask them their motivations for wanting to partner with Northeastern students
  • Ask them to see an annual report or any publicity they have had recently
  • Ask to see any recent news articles about the organization or current issues in their neighborhood facing the population/community
  • Attend our Partnership Orientation event to meet in person before the beginning of the semester
  • Explore their website to see their mission, values, and current programming
  • Ask them to come into your class during the semester to talk with you and the students
  • Ask them how their organization is funded and why it matters to them

Here are a few things you might consider sharing with your partners: 

  • Share your motivations for using service-learning in your teaching broadly and specifically in the course you’re partnering with them in
  • Share the other courses you teach and any research you may engage in
  • Send them a copy of the course syllabus
  • Ask if you can do a  site visit to see their space or visit programming
  • Share how you prepare students for service and what reflection activity you use
  • Share examples of previous courses/course partnerships on the Virtual EXPO website.
Partnership Asks & Agreements

Many, but not all, service-learning course partnerships are confirmed through our formal Request for Partnerships (RFP) process in the months leading up to the semester. During that process we ask faculty: What expectations or special requests do you have of partners beyond supervision? We simultaneously ask community partners what they’re able to commit to on their end in the RFP application process. 

Here are some of the commitments faculty can responsibly ask of their community partner and that community partners identify as being doable:

  • attend class one or more session(s)
  • provide access to data
  • meet with students weekly/regularly
  • meet with students at the beginning/end of the semester
  • be available via email for questions from students
  • be available for a student interview
  • provide feedback on final deliverable
  • allow students to shadow a meeting
  • allow students to serve for a single day as a way to observe and understand the function of the organization
  • be available to interview or talk to other members of the organization or community members

Written resources like our Partnership Agreement and Conversation Guide or Digging Deeper discussion topics are important for documenting conversations and the evolving details of partnerships over time.

Building Blocks of Ethical Partnership

Ethical community-engaged partnerships are not cookie cutter, but rather reflect the experiences, identities, and contexts of those involved. The foundational information and scholarship below is to help you understand the broader field and concept of responsible community-campus partnerships.

Foundation Reading:

Bringle, R. G., Clayton, P. H., & Price, M. (2009). Partnerships in  service learning and civic engagement. Partnerships: A Journal of Service Learning & Civic Engagement, 1(1), 1–20.

Additional readings and resources

Narrated slideshow: access here (on topic, to view prior to session)

Worksheet for reflection: access here –  Please make a copy and save to your own drive.