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Social Work TIG Week: Evaluating Community-Campus Partnerships by Tamarah Moss

Hello, my name is Tamarah Moss, PhD, MPH, MSW I am the program co-chair for AEA Social Work TIG and an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, Bryn Mawr College. My training and practice areas are in both social work and public health. One of my main practice areas is in community-campus partnerships, both nationally and internationally. It should be noted that within peer reviewed literature and organizational/agency reports, community-campus partnerships are also referred to as community-campus engagement, as well as community-university/university-community partnerships. I find the community-campus partnership and community-campus engagement terminologies more inclusive of liberal art colleges and other predominantly undergraduate serving institutions such as community colleges.

Lessons Learned

My experiences both as a researcher and evaluator from the academic side, and also as a practitioner and evaluator, from the community perspective in the setting of non-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO), inform my ongoing practice of community-campus partnerships. I have faced both challenges and triumphs with community-campus partnerships. While not an exhaustive list, please find some lessons learned when working as a campus partner with community organizations which included a pediatric hospital, child welfare agency, human services organization, and an NGO focused on violence prevention and intervention. Through all these experiences, there are some lessons learned for consideration when establishing a community-campus partnership:

  • Be honest and open with ongoing communication upfront when establishing a community-campus partnership. Hold regular check-ins on thoughts and feelings about how the partnership is going.
  • Identify the anticipated outcomes upfront, to go beyond the issue or area of focus so that strengths and delegation emerge for better accountability.
  • Consider writing a memo of understanding once the purpose, goal, objectives, and anticipated outcomes are established. This memo serves as a reference of understanding and offer transparency. For example, the development of publications and types of publications identified for the community, peer reviewed journal, or blog is important for understanding priorities between partners.

As evaluators, it continues to be imperative for those of us, whether based at academic institutions or immersed in practice within community organizations and agencies, as well as those of us in-between to think critically about the relevance, principles and implications of community-campus partnerships in the development of not only communities being served, but the academic institutions also benefiting. There is a unique growth between communities and campus that have the potential to demonstrate culturally responsive and community-centered practices, including evaluation practice. The partnerships I am referring to go beyond the social work profession and given the interdisciplinary nature of this work and partnership teams, the importance across field and professions is critical to our larger evaluation and evaluator community.

Rad Resources

Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) offers frameworks and evaluation tools for community-campus partnerships. Highlights include issues related to roles and responsibilities of partners involved.

Community-Campus Partnerships for Health (CCPH), while focused on health equity and social justice, offers principles of partnership and a resources library on community-campus partnerships. There is a membership fee to access, all resources.

Rachel Nelson (2021) wrote Developing evaluable principles for community-university partnerships, which “articulates a set of effectiveness principles for community-university partnerships that reflect both university and community interests.”

Community-First: Impacts of Community Engagement (CFICE) is committed to being intentional about the way Canadian institutions and communities engage. A video was created (just a little over one hour in length) to highlight the evaluation of impact, for a campus-community engagement activity. There are also additional related resources listed, along with the video.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting SW TIG Week with our colleagues in the Social Work Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from our SW TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365@eval.org. AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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