Engaging Community Partners as Co-Educators

Staff from community partner organizations have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share. By collaborating with local organizations and agencies, colleges and universities can provide students with opportunities to learn from professionals in their field of interest. 

However, when engaging with community partners, it’s crucial that colleges and universities build partnerships based on respect and collaboration. That means centering community voices and expertise in teaching and learning. Here are three steps you can take to successfully position your community partners as co-educators.

Engage Community Partners in Planning

Community partners are organizations or agencies that work with an institution of higher education to provide students with opportunities for learning and engagement. As such, engaging community partners as co-educators starts with institutions of higher education. When building a partnership, include community partners from day one, and make it clear that their voices are essential.

Ask questions about community needs, resources and strengths and build your program in alignment with these. By listening to, and acting on, input from community partners, you’re creating a foundation of trust and reciprocity that will elevate your entire program.

When you begin training students, build opportunities for community partners to participate in hands-on training and classroom learning. This will enhance student learning and ensure your program adequately prepares students to engage with community organizations.

Empower Community Partners As Educators

A good partnership is based on shared goals. To prepare your community partners for their role as co-educators, encourage them to think about the knowledge, skills and experience they have to share. 

Make sure your partners understand your student learning objectives (SLOs)—or better yet, include them in SLO development. Let them know what you hope students will learn from their engagement, and provide guiding questions so they can consider how to support this. 

  • What skills and knowledge can students develop by engaging with your organization?
  • What training sessions and academic learning would help prepare them?
  • What perspectives can you bring that students may not have been exposed to before?
  • What lessons can you share from your own career that might enhance student learning?

Every interaction with a student is a learning opportunity. Encourage community partners to consider how they can be co-educators in training sessions, presentations, classroom learning and on-site engagement.

Build In Career Development

Community engagement allows students to learn from professionals in their field of interest. Along with building real-world skills, these relationships can lead to internships, job opportunities and professional support after graduation.

Encourage community partners to think of themselves as career mentors to your students. Build opportunities for conversations about their career experience and personal journey, and provide students with time and space to ask questions about the knowledge, skills and expertise they may need to succeed.

Creating a formal application and interview process for students can also be a great way to build career development into community engagement. Through GivePulse, ​​you can manage, create, edit, approve and review student-to-partner applications and schedule follow-up steps like interviews and background checks.


Community partnerships work best when all parties are learning and benefiting from meaningful outcomes. By intentionally framing your community partners as co-educators, you’ll build a richer, more rewarding learning opportunity for students and strengthen your institution’s relationships in the community. 

At GivePulse, we believe service-learning can prepare students for a lifetime of leadership and civic engagement by helping them develop the skills they need to support social justice in their communities. We work with professors, teachers, educators, staff and community engagement centers to streamline the logistics of managing community partnerships and tracking student engagement in service-learning courses.

Ready to learn how we can help your institutional partnerships thrive? Schedule a demo with GivePulse today.



About GivePulse

GivePulse's mission is to enable everyone in the world to participate and engage in lifting their community to new heights. We do so by providing a platform to list, find, organize and measure the impact of service-learning, community engagement, philanthropy, corporate social responsibility and volunteerism.

Founded in 2012 in Austin, Texas, GivePulse works with 650,000+ groups, including colleges and universities, nonprofits, businesses, K-12/school districts and cities and municipalities. Together, we connect millions of people in an effort to create positive social change.

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