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Community Engagement and ServiceDeveloping Community Partnerships

Working directly with community organizations can help faculty to developing a more proximate understanding of justice issues they are interested in.  Faculty members can add through their academic examination and research that can assist the populations served by organizations.  Partnerships with community members and organizations can assist in developing research questions relevant to emerging concerns in various areas of social issues and concerns, and ensure (when appropriate) that research reaches intended audiences and those who can impact change.

The type of service students might due heavily depends on the nature of the relationship between the faculty member (or university) and the organizational staff (or larger community partner).  The relationship built between university stakeholders and community stakeholders heavily depends on faculty engagement, asset-based participation, and faculty commitment to understanding the organization’s perspective.

Types of Service


Charity or philanthropy distributes resources such as time, money, or goods to organizations or individuals in need or support.   It is most often done through donations made regularly, sporadically or one time to non-profit/service organizations associated with a particular cause of interest.  Students, faculty or staff members might organize donation drives for food or school supplies, collect toys, attend fundraising events, or make personal contributions.  This often enables organizations to continue operations and offer services to the community along with volunteer opportunities for GMU stakeholder.  Relationships based on charity can often lead to deeper relationships of action and engagement through direct service, scholarship or research.  e.g. Students and faculty contribute food to Our Daily Bread, a food pantry located in Fairfax.  They also might volunteer at ODB’s spring fundraising event, volunteer as marketing interns, or assist in food collection and distribution.

Direct Service

Direct service most often involves working in contact with individuals who experience social issues that students and faculty explore in the classroom.

Task-based Service

Task-based service requires students to assist organizations as volunteers through performing needed tasks related to the provision of services to clients or the community.  Organizations might have administrative, manual, organizational, or outreach work they need to complete in order to fulfill their mission.  Students might help clean space, call donors, create promotional materials, answer phones, prepare a meal, or organize donations.  These tasks are important to organizational activity, and are often roles that help students feel “useful” and have the benefit of deliverable outcomes for the community partner.  It is important for the professor to stress the role that these tasks play in the work being done by organizations and what connection it has to structural issues of injustice.


Relationship-based service requires students to engage more intentionally with individual clients of community partner organizations and staff members in a way that co-creates experience through conversation and dialogue.  Students may or may not have specific tasks to accomplish or may serve in tangential roles to the central functions of an organization.  This can sometimes be difficult for students at first as they may prioritize “doing” over “sharing” and may feel anxious about holding conversations with people from different backgrounds than themselves.


What is participatory action? (link, as stated above)

Board Affiliation

Literature on Service

Garoutte, L. & McCarthy-Gilmore, K. (2014).  Preparing students for community-based learning using an asset-based approach.  Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 14 (5), 48-61.

Jacoby, Barbara.  (1996).  Service-learning in higher education.  San Francisco,  Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Kendall, J. C. (1990). Combining service and learning: An introduction. In J. C. Kendall (Ed.), Combining service and learning: A resource book for community and public service, Vols. 1-2 (pp. 1-36). Raleigh, NC: National Society for Internships and Experiential Education.

Kretzmannn, J. P., & McKnight, J. L. (1993). Building communities from the inside out: A path toward finding and mobilizing a community’s assets. Skokie, Il: ACTA Publications.