Can I Come Over to Your Place?


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This session discusses the UI Community-Based Learning Program’s Community Partner Site Visit initiative. The CBLP has committed to conducting 50 on-site agency vists per year to develop and cultivate engagement partnerships in the local community and beyond.
Mary Mathew Wilson
University of Iowa Community-Based Learning Program

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Can I Come Over to Your Place?

  1. 1. Can I come over to your place? Exploring and strengthening community partnerships through site visits and structured conversations. Breakout Session III Skill -Building Friday, June 13th 1:50-2:50 PM Northwoods
  2. 2. Presenter: Mary Mathew Wilson, Director UI Community-Based Learning Program Pomerantz Career Center University of Iowa
  3. 3. Topics: How the initiative came to life The interview tool Selecting the sites to visit Stop, look, listen and learn Where the collected data goes Benefits Challenges Planning your own visits
  4. 4. How the initiative came to life UI Civic Engagement Program established June 1, 2005 – initially, partners were brought on board by word-of mouth and added to the Volunteer Link website. A few years later, United Way of Johnson County & 10K proposed a “one-stop” website for community partners: Agencies can self-select into partnership with the UI when registering on the United Way site. Volunteer Administrators’ Network – provides periodic opportunities to interface with partners and hear about their volunteer needs and challenges . Faculty often looking for service-learning projects and partners if they did not already have them. Staff and students are continually looking for volunteer project opportunities. Some community partners give feedback that they are overwhelmed with multiple one-off project requests from various groups and individuals on campus, especially at certain times during the academic year. The best way to figure out who’s doing what is to go straight to the community partner. It is often difficult to collect this information internally so a visit can be an opportunity to find out.
  5. 5. How the initiative came to life Recognized the need to be more intentional about relationship-building and communication with community partners; not just casual exchanges at Volunteer Fairs or VAN meetings or random phone calls when needs arose Need for strong partnerships – public engagement on the rise across the institution Vetted idea to a small group of service-learning faculty, including the notion of creating a wish list question that might result in a “repository/clearinghouse” of time-insensitive project ideas Sought faculty assistance/advice in the development of the interview tool at which time another question was added regarding a recent engagement experience and “what went well and what didn’t” (getting at best practices; also prospecting for exemplary partnerships) Started making calls to arrange visits with agencies that had self-selected to affiliate themselves with the UI on the United Way website
  6. 6. The interview tool Date, time, and location of meeting – location is usually at the agency, but some nonprofits do not have a fixed location in which case you can meet over coffee at an off-campus location Agency name and mission and the name and title of the person(s) interviewed Is the agency already partnered with the Career Center (Hire-a-Hawk)? Is the agency partnered with the UI on the United Way of Johnson County Website? Existing/Desired Partnerships with the UI (include name of staff, department/unit, and general details): --Volunteers (episodic and/or ongoing) --Service Learning --Internships --Practicum/Preceptor Experiences --Work Study --Community-Based Research Agency’s most recent collaboration – what went well and what did not go well Projects on the agency’s wish list (large or small but not urgent or time-sensitive)
  7. 7. Stop, look, listen, and learn When you “invite yourself over” (best to do by phone), explain and contextualize the visit; tell why you’d like to come over, why you think it is important to have a conversation, and what might be the reciprocal benefits. Show up on time and to be the listener/learner; if the community partner offers to show you around, do accept the invitation. Be willing to immerse oneself in a different culture with different norms and patterns of relating; anything can happen (which makes it all the more interesting); ask me about dogs and ice storms! Explain what questions will be asked and why Step back and allow the community partner to set the tone, direction, and pace of the conversation; allow trust to build as information is shared and to be sensitive to the partner’s communication style. Be the scribe; capture information and if something is unclear or unaddressed, seek clarification without interrupting. You may encounter both extremes of the “talkativeness” continuum, so you will need to use your judgment about when to gently press for more information or when to interrupt to get things back on track. Collect brochures, cards, etc. Don’t overstay your welcome.
  8. 8. Where the collected data goes
  9. 9. Where the collected data goes  Agencies that participate in visits are listed at the “Get Involved” link on the engagement website developed by the UI’s new Associate Provost for Outreach and Engagement – Prof. Linda Snetselaar Anecdotal notes are written up and placed in a notebook along with any artifacts that are brought back from the agency – business cards, brochures, etc. I use this notebook frequently during appointments with students, faculty, and staff. Basic information from the interview is entered into HireaHawk – the Pomerantz Career Center’s online recruiting system: Potential internship opportunities are added to a list and distributed to career advisors/shared with students during advising appointments. Higher level “wish list” items are shared proactively and appropriately. Some volunteer opportunities are posted on the Civic Engagement Community listserv and also on the CBLP Facebook page.
  10. 10. Benefits to the institution Development/cultivation of local partnerships for all levels of community engagement (academic service-learning, community-based research, volunteering, internships, philanthropy) Validated list of potential project ideas based on community partners’ needs Identifed engagement activities that may have been previously unknown to central administration data keepers (will help us track for reporting purposes) Findings can inform best practices for campus and community partnerships Recognition/awards Current information to share with students, faculty and staff
  11. 11. Benefits to the community partner Having someone come to them—minimal interruption to their work day; someone they can connect with for future communication An opportunity to offer feedback and make suggestions for how partnerships can be created or how existing ones can be improved An opportunity to vent in a safe environment; can point out problems/issues An opportunity to educate the university about the agency’s mission, strengths, assets, and needs An opportunity to learn about and develop internships – addresses the problem expressed by some community partners of wanting more sustained involvement from students while also helping students build their resumes and get zero-credit transcript notations (or even take a 1, 2, or 3 semester hour internship course)  Getting their wish list items on someone’s radar
  12. 12. Challenges Getting the word out --across campus that this information is available --to community partners to schedule a visit Tracking personnel changes at agencies already visited and tagging up with the new person in a timely way, then updating records to reflect the new contact Some of the agencies visited are not close to campus; transportation for students is very much an issue Concerns about being perceived as disingenuous if partnerships don’t materialize Deciding how often visits should be repeated and information updated Deciding how wide to “cast the net” when scheduling visits
  13. 13. Agencies visited by CBLP in 2013-14 Community Health Initiative-Haiti North Liberty Food Pantry Iowa City Public Library Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity Big Brothers Big Sisters of Johnson County Access to Independence ARC of Johnson County Friends of the Animal Care Foundation Old Brick Community Center Pathways Adult Day Health Care Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption Johnson County Heritage Trust Domestic Violence Intervention Program The Dream Center Strive for Success Summer of the Arts Miracles in Motion Johnson County Crisis Center & Food Bank The Englert Theatre Salvation Army National Alliance on Mental Illness Coralville Ecumenical Food Pantry Free Medical Clinic Table to Table Children of Promise Elder Services Uptown Bill’s UI Pentacrest Museums Johnson County Historical Society Catherine McAuley Center Brain Injury Alliance Iowa Reach for Your Potential Herbert Hoover National Historic Site VA Voluntary Services Girls on the Run Relay for Life Rape Victim Advocacy Program Combined Efforts Theatre Handicare Hospice of Washington County Neighborhood Centers of Iowa City Iowa Children’s Museum Oaknoll Retirement Residence UIHC Volunteer Services Public Access Television Shelter House Paws & More Animal Shelter Dreamwell Theatre Iowa City Hospice English Language Learning Program – Kirkwood Comm. College United Action for Youth
  14. 14. Planning your own visits Please partner with someone and work through the questions on the handout. In 10 minutes we will reconvene and discuss.
  15. 15. Discussion/Questions
  16. 16. Contact information Mary Mathew Wilson Director, Community-Based Learning Program Pomerantz Career Center 100 Pomerantz Center, Suite C310 Iowa City, IA 52242-7700 (319) 335-7589