Working with a Partner

Content Overview                  

Relevant Action Guides

  1. Goals and Expectations
  2. Compensating Partners and Related Guidance
  3. Putting it in Writing: Collaboration Agreements
  4. Strategies for Navigating Conflict
  5. Putting it in Writing (Faculty- Partner): Scope of Work
  6. Discussing Intellectual Property

1. Goals and Expectations


At the outset of a community-engaged course, define clear engagement and learning goals and outline responsibilities for all involved. Provide students with the details and offer orientation, trainings, and readings that fill in the big picture (i.e. organization’s mission, the service focus area, cultural context); connect the content to the engagement work and answer the question “why community engagement?” Plan on dedicating class time for pre-engagement training/s and for an orientation to your partner/s.

Checklist for orienting students to an engaged course:

  • Include the service learning expectations and definition in the syllabus (see SLS Big Ideas: Mutually Beneficial Partnerships)
  • Along with a syllabus, provide roles and responsibilities, and an engagement-specific schedule
  • Suggest a clear set of communication practices and guidelines (information on the organization’s contact point person, how often to check in via e-mail/phone, meet in person, etc.)
  • Share relevant engagement resources and trainings (see the SLCE Nuts and Bolts)
  • Take students on at least one faculty-led partner site visit or orientation or bring the partner into the classroom
  • Anticipate common challenges and offer support for them (see the Pre-engagement Training and Conflict Resolution guides)
  • Match students and partner needs through a clear and transparent process that balances fit with potentially changing circumstances.

2. Compensating Partners and Related Guidance



3. Putting it in Writing: Collaboration Agreements


Should I have a verbal or written agreement with my SLCE partner about expectations?

We recommend that you set aside time to establish mutual understandings; below you’ll find a conversation guide/worksheet and an agreement template to use in your initial meeting with your partner. Please do email Ruthie Yow, Service Learning and Partnerships Specialist, if you have any questions about or would like assistance with the document.


4. Strategies for Navigating Conflict


Challenges will undoubtedly arise. In fact, they are often a natural and healthy part of the process of building authentic relationships, which are integral to community engagement. At times, unforeseen challenges will come up quickly and unexpectedly. To successfully manage conflict, be in close touch with students and partners, remain flexible, and view the process of conflict resolution as an opportunity for growth and learning.

Checklist for planning for and working through conflict:

First, recognize that conflict is:

  • Normal, and while uncomfortable, often an important part of collaborative processes.
  • Often caused by and exacerbated by differences in communication style and approach.
  • Very common in community engagement as power, privilege, and different cultural and class-based norms of communicating and working come into play.
  • Not always due to a deeply rooted problem, and may be about resolving miscommunication or mismatched expectations.

To deal with challenges:

  • Depending on the situation, consider adding in a relevant training (for example, differences in communication or work styles; conflict management or on non-violent communication—see guide to Conflict Resolution. See also our Cross-Cultural Communication tool).
  • Create a safe space for students and partners to share issues they may experience or communication challenges.
  • Model talking about issues you’ve had in similar circumstances.
  • Use reflection assignments to bring up points of tension or difficulties and facilitate dialogue around them.
  • Make clear the mechanisms students and partners can use to resolve conflict.
  • Encourage perspective taking; help students see the partners’ priorities and help the partners understand the students’ schedule.

5. Putting it in Writing (Faculty- Partner): Scope of Work


The Scope of Work template is intended to aid a faculty member and a course partner in more finely articulating their expectations, project plan, goals, and timeline. We recommend it be used in tandem with the collaboration agreement, which is a useful tool for laying the foundations of a new partnership.


6. Discussing Intellectual Property