Community Partnerships

Scholarship and teaching can focus on public issues or be done for public purposes without engaging any public partners. Working with partners is what sets community engagement apart.

Partnerships help us learn the things that we don’t know, access information we don’t have and  imagine possibilities we can’t see. They are a crucial, and often immediate, way that we can help our work matter in the world at large.

But here’s the catch: partnerships take time. They depend on knowing, respecting and trusting each other. So it’s essential that you put in the effort to cultivate the best possible partnerships. How do you do that? The same way you’d build any meaningful relationship.

Be honest and transparent about your interests, assets and constraints. Ask questions; listen hard; be flexible. Recognize that there are many kinds of knowledge in the world and many kinds of strengths; honor those knowledges and use those strengths.

You and your community partners are co-educators. They know things you don’t know, and vice versa. By harnessing the best of what you both bring to the partnership, you can accomplish more together than you would alone.


  • Here is a list of Principles of Good Campus-Community Partnerships:
    • Partners have agreed upon mission, goals, and measurable outcomes for the partnership.
    • The relationship between partners is characterized by reciprocity, mutual trust, respect, inclusion, genuineness, collaboration and commitment.
    • The partnership builds upon identified strengths and assets, but also addresses areas that need improvement.
    • The partnership balances power and among partners and enables resources among partners to be shared.
    • There is a clear, open, transparent and accessible communication between partners, making it an on-going priority to remain flexible, empathize with each other, listen to each need, develop a common language, ensure safety and validate/ clarify the meaning of terms.
    • Roles, norms and processes for the partnership are established with the input and agreement of all partners.
    • There is feedback to, among, and from all stakeholders in the partnership, with the goal of continuously improving the partnership and its outcomes.
    • Partners endeavor to build capacity and share the credit for the partnership’s accomplishments.
    • Partnerships take time to develop and evolve over time.

      (Adapted from from “Principles of Good Community-Campus Partnerships” in Barbara Jacoby and Associates (2004) Building Partnerships for Service Learning and “Ten Principles of Successful Community-Campus Partnerships” in Kerry Strand et al., (2002) Community-Based Research and Higher Education)

If you’re an Engaged Cornell grantee, visit the Blackboard site to take a deeper dive into community partnerships. (Don’t have access? Let us know!)

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Get in touch. Anna Sims Bartel, (607) 254-4510, and Amanda Wittman, (607) 255-1478, from the Office of Engagement Initiatives are eager to connect — on the phone, over email or in person.