Our community impact goals center on mobilizing students, faculty, staff, and community members and radiate outwards to developing leaders who develop and manage programs and projects. We also seek to mobilize campuses to help build the capacity of service-providing organizations to work more effectively and of collaboratives to achieve measurable community and systemic change.
We focus our efforts on three kinds of community-based organizations: direct service providers with whom students engage in client service and volunteer management, collaboratives working on system change where students can help build organizational capacity, and with campaigns seeking policy change where students can become involved in social action and community organizing. Of course, there are also opportunities for students to serve with local government, a community foundation, or policy research organization, to name just a few other potential partner organizations.
As with our other goals, our community impact goals and strategies intersect with those for students and campuses. We believe you cannot achieve the highest level of campus community outreach without also committing to achieving an equally high level of student development and the campus infrastructure to support the community-campus partnerships.
The strategies below represent a range of approaches for leveraging campus resources in support of community-defined or supported service and change.
Direct service has been and remains the central focus of campus community outreach efforts.
Campus resources can be leveraged to help meet the capacity-building needs of local community partners.
Community-defined research and analysis is the primary capacity-building project taken on by students in academic courses and applied research internships.
Community leaders have a need for policy information and analysis to inform their decision-making about issues facing their organizations and community.
Documenting community impact of campus community engagement remains a goal for the Bonner Network. We already measure inputs (student hours by organization and issue area) and are making progress is documenting outputs (e.g., children tutored in after-school programs; capacity-building projects completed; social action campaign victories). However, only targeted assessment efforts will measure the impact of specific community engagement activities (e.g., actual improvements in reading levels or school attendance of children participating in a community-based after-school program), which we currently do with our New Jersey Bonner AmeriCorps Program.
- Counting inputs: approximately 3,000 students in the Bonner Program perform 180-240 hours of service per school year, and many engage in full-time summer service internships as well.
- Documenting outputs: for the first time, in this year's annual report we are asking campuses to provide basic descriptions of capacity building projects completed by Bonners during the school year, as well as a more in-depth profile of an exemplary project completed by a fourth year Bonner. We hope to do the same with social action campaign projects as those begin to be introduced through new courses taught on Bonner campuses in the coming years. We will share those on this website.
- Targeted assessments: in addition to the New Jersey Bonner AmeriCorps Program, we also tracked specific community engagement outputs in our National Bonner AmeriCorps Program which we ended in 2016. Other targeted assessment efforts include those by food recovery programs (see the national Campus Kitchens Project and the Food Recovery Network).
A key focus of our efforts to increase the community-based research and policy research outreach by students is to improve the capacity of our community partners to measure their organizations' impacts. Our emerging national partnerships, beginning with the Congressional Hunger Center, will provide needed expertise in this area.
We will also identify or develop an approach for a qualitative measurement of the community-campus partnerships in our network. This may include satisfaction surveys, anecdotal evidence, and other indicators of the quality and importance of these partnerships to our community partners.