Key Aspects of Community Service

For community service activities to be mutually beneficial for both campus and community, they should reflect the following standards of best practices:

Reciprocity: Reciprocity is the belief that both the academy and the community have something to gain from each other. Each individual involved functions as both a teacher and a learner. Community service participants are viewed as colleagues, not as servers or clients; and are acknowledged as partners in teaching and learning. Students work with, rather than do for the community.

Community Voice: The service provided must address a real need as identified by the community. In community service projects the voice of the community is sought and listened to as projects are developed. Assessing need should include a map of assets, not just deficits.

Collaboration: Community service requires a special tri-partite partnership between students, faculty and the community. Service expectations and learning objectives are mutually determined and clearly defined. It is a process of engaging partners to work together, sharing authority and resources to help each other reach their goals.

Reflection: The student experience is deliberately designed and structured with reflection and formal analysis typically associated with academic discourse to ground students in the social realities of the wider community. Connected to course and program goals, reflection is continuous, challenging and contextualized, ensuring integration of service experiences with academic content.

Orientation, Training and Supervision: Faculty and community partners provide students with information about the CBO or agency and its patrons prior to their community service. In addition, students receive ongoing educational training to digest how their service can be most effective given the social, political and economic context of their service work.

Communication: This complex relationship between the college, its students and the community that surrounds it can often be shifting and delicate. By requiring regular and ongoing communication, community service strengthens the whole and each part.

Accountability: The goals and objectives of students' service projects are clearly defined and each partner's roles and responsibilities are clarified.

Assessment: Regular and continuing evaluations are conducted to assess both community impact and student development; to provide feedback loops between the academy and community partners; and to improve the content of training and reflection sessions.

(Modified from Campus Compact's publication on "Establishing and Sustaining an Office of Community Service.")