For campus-community partnerships to make positive impact, as well as promote collaboration and equity, investments in well-developed community partnerships are critical.
The Bonner Program rests on a commitment to meaningful, long-term service commitments to the partners and communities with which we work. This dedication to our partners promotes more significant change, resource development, capacity building, and problem solving in organizations and communities—as well as allows for personal and professional growth for all those who are engaged in the process. Each campus program develops a long-term approach, working with key local, national, and even international organizations year after year.
The following principles guide our model and work:
Rather than viewing neighborhoods and communities from a deficit point-of-view, we seek to identify and build upon the strengths and assets of each partner and community. Students and others are trained in this orientation.
We also believe in the importance of place – including listening to residents and leaders – and understanding the learning and meaning that is derived from engaging in a community.
Mutually Beneficial and Reciprocal
Staff and students who build and manage Bonner Programs and Centers invest in building relationships that are intentional, aim to add value for each party, and demonstrate reciprocity.
Just as our work with students is developmental, so too is our work on partnerships. Programs and institutions acknowledge that it takes experience to build and sustain partnerships that can include students working at different levels, connections with faculty members and academic courses, and even long-range community impact goals.
An aim is to have partners connected with multiple resources on campus, such as the involvement of long-term student volunteers, research projects, and even resource development.
Because of the multi-year involvement of Bonner students and the establishment of campus infrastructure (such as staffing and centers) to manage partnerships and projects, partners can look for longer-term engagement by their partnering college or university. This supports long-range visioning, planning, and even impact assessment.
Focus on Capacity Building
We have adopted goals for building the capacity of organizations and communities, including strategies for direct service, volunteer management, program development, communications, organizational development, research, and assessment.
Partners as Co-Educators
We believe and intentially engage partner staff as well as clients in co-educator roles, valuing their knowledge about their communities, issues, and approaches for change.
We seek to foster “democratic engagement,” meaning that all contributors are valued in helping to address issues (like education and hunger), create knowledge (through scholarship and action), and be a part of a larger eco-system of individuals and organizations working for a healthy and just society.
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