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Building Partnerships for Service-Learning

By Barbara Jacoby and Associates
400 pages
ISBN: 0-7879-5890-5
$35.00 (hardover)

Reviewed by

Carina P. Sass

Community Service Learning Center
CSU Long Beach


In 1991, Campus Outreach Opportunity League (COOL) published Five Critical Elements of Meaningful Community Service, guiding service-learning advocates to integrate the elements of Community Voice, Orientation and Training, Meaningful Action, Reflection, and Evaluation into their fledgling programs. The simple (yet for many quite novel) concept of "community voice"--and the belief that the community must have a voice in defining its needs and designing service-learning projects--brought home to many that service-learning1 is not something to be done for the community, but rather something to be done in partnership with the community. Since then, the concept of partnership in service-learning has developed in both breadth and depth. Building Partnerships for Service-Learning, by Barbara Jacoby and Associates, is an excellent illustration of the development of partnerships in the field of service-learning.

It would be reasonable to assume that the focus of a discussion on service-learning partnerships would be on community partnerships. While this certainly is a significant focus, what makes this book particularly useful is its much broader consideration of partnerships, including those within the institution (Chapters 4-6), with other campuses (Chapter 7), and with corporate and other "non-traditional" service-learning partners (Chapters 12 and 13). Community partnerships provide the opportunity for direct service-learning, while institutional partnerships provide the opportunity for program sustainability--for service-learning to find its place within the institution's structure, its faculty promotion and tenure process, its mission, and its culture. As a result, this volume is directed not only toward those working directly with the community--service-learning faculty, community partnership and/or placement coordinators--but also toward service-learning directors, advisory boards, university administrators, and other policy makers.

The book is organized into four general themes: fundamentals of service-learning partnerships (Chapters 1-3), building an institutional infrastructure (Chapters 4-7), community-campus partnerships (Chapters 8-11), and alternative forms of partnerships (Chapters 12-14). Chapter Fifteen draws together the various themes and addresses future implications. The book begins with an overview of the chapters and with author biographies, providing a useful framework. Many authors are well-respected service-learning "veterans" who have made significant contributions over the years, such as Brooke Beaird and James Birge (Chapter 7), Linda Chisholm (Chapter 13), Sandra Enos (Chapter 2), Elizabeth Hollander (Chapter 14), Keith Morton (Chapter 2), and Terry Pickeral (Chapter 9).

The first three chapters provide a foundation for the remainder of the volume. Barbara Jacoby opens with an overview of service-learning, including discussions on the status of the field in relation to research, definitions, models, and principles of practice, and the recognition and support by national professional organizations, foundations, and government. She describes service-learning as a program, philosophy, and pedagogy, and concludes with a concise presentation of three widely accepted frameworks for partnerships. In Chapter Two, Sandra Enos and Keith Morton take a developmental perspective of partnerships, providing "a way of examining partnerships as they move from transactional to transformative relationships" (p. 23). Sherril B. Gelmon then presents in Chapter Three a discussion of the role of assessment in developing partnerships, in particular the assessment of the "process and impacts of partnerships" (p. 42).

Chapters Four through Seven focus on partnerships within and among institutions of higher education, including those between Student Affairs and Academic Affairs (Chapter 4), with students (Chapter 5), and among institutions (Chapter 6). Institutions of higher education generally can be characterized as numerous loosely connected, largely autonomous individuals and organizations. This emphasis on autonomy and independence is particularly challenging when developing partnerships that require close collaboration and interdependence. It also may make it difficult for potential partners to recognize the value and/or need for such partnerships. The success of these partnerships, however, can significantly impact the strength and sustainability of service-learning within the institution. Although Chapter Four's focus on student-affairs-based service-learning programs is limiting, overall these chapters provide a strong discussion of the challenges, benefits, and potential of such partnerships.

Perhaps one of the most important for the future of service-learning is Chapter Six, "Developing an Infrastructure for Service-Learning and Community Engagement." Jennifer M. Pigza and Marie L. Troppe present three models for establishing an infrastructure of service-learning and community engagement, followed by examples from several campuses illustrating benchmarks identified in the models. The chapter is based on three assumptions: that no one model works for all institutions, that developing an infrastructure "involves the entire institution as well as community partners" (p. 106), and that service-learning should not be promoted "solely for [the university's] benefit or for its students' educational opportunities" (p. 106). They go on to state that service-learning will be most likely successful in an institution that identifies itself as a campus engaged with the community. Further discussion is needed on how service-learning advocates can move beyond a program focus to one of campus-wide engagement with the community.

The book's first half sets out models of best practice and ideals for partnerships. Chapters Eight and Nine move to more practical issues of implementation. In Chapter Eight, Susan R. Jones reveals the complexities of real-world community-campus partnerships, asserting that "despite the existence of principles of good practice, creating and sustaining truly reciprocal partnerships with community agencies is rarely as neat and tidy a process as the principles may suggest" (p. 155). This chapter provides hope for those who despair of ever truly attaining the high standards of these principles as well as practical advice and profiles of successful partnerships.

Terry Pickeral's discussion of K-12 and higher education partnerships takes us from a critique of traditional K-16 partnerships to the benefits of service-learning partnerships. Pickeral provides examples of successful partnerships and discusses the implications for higher education service-learning programs in the growing number of districts introducing service-learning graduation requirements.

Case studies of two urban development partnerships are the basis of discussions on participatory action research and collaborative university-community action research in Chapters Ten and Eleven. These chapters provide excellent discussions on the challenges and potential of such research, although the focus on large initiatives relating to urban planning does limit the applicability to some extent. Chapter Ten considers a nine-year neighborhood-development partnership utilizing students in a six-credit service-learning course, "Neighborhood Planning Workshop." Chapter Eleven presents models of participatory action research to serve as complements for or alternatives to traditional research.

The book's final section uses several less traditional frameworks in discussing service-learning partnerships. Chapters Twelve and Thirteen consider the development of corporate and international service-learning partnerships, while Chapter Fourteen looks at service-learning partnerships through the lens of the civic renewal movement. Stacey Riemer and Joshua McKeown argue in Chapter Twelve that corporations are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of becoming good "corporate citizens" and that maintaining or strengthening communities in which they do business is becoming part of the means by which they stay in business. Higher education and corporate partners each bring their own sets of resources, skills, expertise, (and, yes, their own agendas) to address a community need. Riemer and McKeown emphasize the importance of finding the value of corporate partnerships without losing sight of the primary mission of corporate partners.

International service-learning partnerships are addressed by Linda A. Chisolm in Chapter Thirteen. This chapter is a hidden gem for campuses considering moving beyond national borders in their service-learning efforts. Chisolm offers several approaches to international service-learning, addresses issues to consider in choosing an approach, and then walks the reader through the basic steps in developing an international partnership.

Elizabeth Hollander and Matthew Hartley discuss in Chapter Fourteen the value of framing service-learning within the context of the civic renewal movement. They argue that service-learning plays a key role in students' civic education and engagement and that making this connection more explicit can result in a stronger interest in service-learning among campus presidents and faculty who value civic education. They also point to the growing interest of foundations and federal funding agencies in programs promoting civic involvement.

Jacoby does an excellent job presenting emergent themes and envisioning the long-term potential of service-learning partnerships. She focuses on the centrality of partnerships in service-learning, identifying key characteristics such as recognizing partnerships' relational dimension, balancing shared and individual goals, and sharing control of the partnership agenda. Jacoby draws upon various chapters to argue for the importance of tying service-learning more closely into the "missions, policies, and practices of higher education institutions" (p. 318), including reconceptualizing research, teaching, and service, and confronting institutional structures that inhibit collaboration across disciplines, between student affairs and academic affairs, and with the larger community. Her call for research and assessment commends several authors for introducing new frameworks and approaches and summarizes national research priorities developed in recent years. Of particular importance are her statements on the importance of advocacy and policy making on the national level, as legislation and funding decisions significantly impact service-learning.

Overall, Building Partnerships for Service-Learning provides a balanced, in-depth discussion of service-learning partnerships. It clearly takes us beyond a simple call to include "community voice" to a broader call to articulate the ideals, principles, and practices necessary to create authentic, reciprocal, mutually beneficial partnerships. Its consideration of partnerships beyond the campus-community partnership provides a means to approach issues such as the institutionalization of service-learning, the pursuit of larger goals such as campus engagement and civic renewal, the roles of corporate partners in improving communities, and the global potential of service-learning.

1. The Jacoby text consistently utilizes a hyphen in service-learning, disregarding generally accepted grammatical standards. The use of the hyphen in such a way is purposeful and has become accepted within the field of service-learning as a way to emphasize the transactional or reciprocal relationship between service and learning. I utilize this form in this review to be consistent with the book and to reflect my own perspective.

Selected Resources:

CSU Office of Service Learning
The CSU Chancellor's Office support and promotes service-learning throughout the CSU system.

Campus Compact
This is "a national coalition of more than 860 college and university presidents committed to the civic purposes of higher education."

Partnership Self-Assessment Tool
This web-based assessment is provided free to partnerships by the Center for the Advancement of Collaborative Strategies in Health with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Community-Campus Partnerships for Health
Focusing on community health in the broadest sense, CCPH is a valuable resource for all who are interested in "collaborating to promote health through service-learning, community-based research, community service and other partnership strategies."

A Meeting of Minds: A Handbook for Community-Campus Engagement (PDF)
This handbook, written by CCPH Fellow Nola Freeman for the benefit of community partners, provides a valuable perspective for service-learning faculty and administrators.

Office of University Partnerships, U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development
HUD established the Office of University Partnerships (OUP) in 1994 to encourage and expand the efforts of institutions of higher education that are striving to make a difference in their communities through funding opportunities.

Service-Learning and Civic Engagement Research Directory
This is "an aggregation of the search pages of primary online resources on service-learning and civic engagement research in K-12 education, teacher education, and higher education."

Mapping Civic Engagement in Higher Education
This is "a compilation of 56 national and regional initiatives in higher education civic engagement and an analysis of the field of higher education civic engagement."

National Service-Learning Discussion Group
In existence for more than a decade, this international listserv is a forum to discuss service-learning at its most practical and at its most philosophical. Active participants include both newcomers and veterans of service-learning. To subscribe, send a message to
In the body of the e-mail (not in the subject field) write subscribe service-learning

Posted October 3, 2003

All material appearing in this journal is subject to applicable copyright laws.
Publication in this journal in no way indicates the endorsement of the content by the California State University, the Institute for Teaching and Learning, or the Exchanges Editorial Board. ©2003 by Carina P. Sass.

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