The CCL employs a two-pronged framework for partnership building: 1) application of asset- and human rights-based approaches to community development and 2) a model of co-education wherein CCL staff and community partners co-create experiential learning opportunities grounded in a mutual understanding of student development.
The CCL applies asset- and human-rights-based approaches to partnership development to negotiate the uneven power dynamics of universities and communities, which are often perpetuated by application of a deficit or needs-based model that privileges university knowledge and resources over those of the community. By recognizing and promoting community resources and asserting the ethical and political implications of our work, the CCL promotes community agency and social justice values within partnership development.
A partnership model based on co-education further allows the CCL to foreground student development. For the CCL, co-education means partnerships that are mission aligned, mutually beneficial and reciprocal, and ethically engaged. While the value of mutually beneficial partnerships is well established in the SLCE literature, the CCL’s emphasis on co-education prioritizes student learning of social issues and civic practices over geographic locale, which, in turn, allows the center to align partners and programs across local, national, and international contexts.
Geographic and Issue Scope
CCL staff and students partner with 250 organizations across the globe, with 2/3 located in Houston. Between August 2015 and October 2019, the center partnered with 160 Houston community partners across nine programs and three academic courses. These partners include city and county government offices, departments, and elected officials, small, medium, and large non-profit organizations, as well as civic-minded for-profit companies.
The CCL works with Houston organizations across a number of issues that are at the forefront of local, national, and international concern, including: environment, greenspace access, urban resilience, disaster response, public health, women’s rights, children’s health and safety, education, housing and homelessness, food insecurity, public safety, transit and mobility, immigration, human trafficking, criminal justice, racial justice, voter rights and mobilization, civil rights, disability rights and services, LGBTQ rights and services, and community arts. Among these, our largest concentration of partner relationships and co-educational relationships have been in the area of children’s health, education, and criminal justice.
LRME and ASB extend the CCL’s partnerships across the United States. Twenty-five percent of LRME placements are located outside Houston (until 2018 LRME included international partnerships). In order to create student cohorts, LRME has focused on developing partnerships in Austin, Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Partner selection has transitioned from an emphasis on the status of the mentor to organizations where civic professionalism can be understood through a strong mentoring experience. ASB engages with 50-60 partners annually. Since the program is student led and the social issue areas change, the partners vary from year to year; however, encouragement of return trips to locales with strong co-educational partnerships has resulted in repeated annual engagement with partners in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.
GEO and the Loewenstern Fellowship engage with 11 partners comprised of nine NGOs and two third-party providers facilitating critical service and civic research abroad. A new assistant director hired in 2017 narrowed the international partner organizations after evaluation through a co-educational lens. Thus far the CCL has run GEO in Mexico, Sweden, and Jordan, and a program in Thailand is currently under development with faculty. While the Loewenstern Fellowship historically had an emphasis on working with partner organizations in South America and Asia, the shift in partnership approach has expanded the program to opportunities in Africa and Europe as well. Whereas the issue focus of GEO partnerships is faculty dependent, the issue focus of the Loewenstern Fellowship shifts depending on the interests of the students. In the early years of the program, placements were heavily concentrated in education, healthcare, and community development. In recent years, there has been diversification of topics to include organizations working on gender-based violence, micro-lending, and the social determinants of health.