Partnerships and Power: Community Partners’ Experiences of Service-Learning
Service-learning is a form of community engagement deemed beneficial to both students and community members. However, while there is a large and growing body of research investigating whether service-learning does indeed advance student learning, there has been paucity of research on whether service-learning benefits community partners, and in what way. This study is based on interviews with community partners at a South African university, to explore how community partners experience service-learning. The findings suggest that community partners value service-learning partnerships and believe that the presence of students does, for the most part, meet a need in the community. However, the findings also show that service-learning partners long for greater commitment and attention from the university partner, and that few partners feel empowered to initiate and drive service-learning partnerships, which are instead typically set up by the university. These findings also suggest that service-learning partnerships are of value to partners, but that more needs to be done to address the power relations inherent in partnerships between universities and community partners.