Best Practices for Community Engagement

The Center for Civic Engagement & Learning (CCEL) developed the Best Practices for Responsible Community Engagement to guide and articulate our office's approach to engaging students in the community and to provide a framework for advising individuals, organizations, and departments interested in getting involved in the community.

Our Process
The process for developing these best practices was informed by bench marking other higher education institutions, with a particular focus on the Principles of Ethical and Effective Service outlined by Stanford's Haas Center for Public Service. The original draft of CCEL's Best Practices was shared with various student leaders and community partners for feedback, resulting in the current document. We anticipate that our best practices will be a living document that will continue to evolve and adapt.

Best Practices for Responsible Community Engagement

Each best practice includes a bulleted description. While the best practices were developed with an emphasis on the student role in community engagement efforts, they can be applied to other individuals and groups involved in community service activities. This list is not in priority order, as all best practices are interconnected and equally valued.

Embrace an Asset-based Perspective

  • Recognize the wealth of resources, wisdom, and resilience that exists within communities.
  • Focus on enhancing opportunities and resources in partnership with community members and organizations, rather than on "fixing" perceived issues or problems within communities.

Foster Reciprocal Partnerships

  • Foster mutually beneficial partnerships that genuinely support the work of community partners and the development of students.
  • Collaborate with community partners to develop, evaluate, and revise programs to ensure that programs are beneficial to their work and to the community.
  • Recognize the value of sustained community involvement in promoting understanding, fostering mutually beneficial relationships, and creating lasting impact.

Value Diversity and Social Justice

  • Explore your own identities and how they shape your experience in community. Seek to continuously identify and challenge assumptions, biases, judgments, and stereotypes about individuals and communities.
  • Value and respect people of diverse identities and backgrounds, and work to create inclusive environments.
  • Recognize and identity ways to address root causes of social injustice through a variety of forms of civic engagement.

Practice Humility

  • Approach community engagement activities with an open mind and a listening and learning attitude.
  • Critically examine how issues of power and privilege impact attitudes towards community and community engagement activities.

Engage in Education and Reflection

  • Provide intentional opportunities for learning about partner organizations, community issues, and context before, during, and after community engagement activities.
  • Process community engagement experiences through dialogue to deepen self-awareness and understanding of community and to inform future actions.