What does it mean to be in a strong partnership?
Using Collaboratory’s national dataset of community engagement data, we explored partnerships between higher education institutions and the community organizations with which they are partnered. Our goals were to:
- understand what quantitative characteristics from Collaboratory denote ‘strong’ community-university partnerships,
- use those characteristics to create an algorithmic assessment model to identify the strongest partnerships in the Collaboratory dataset, and
- reveal common themes that practitioners can leverage to cultivate stronger and more resilient partnerships.
With input from Collaboratory administrators, community engagement professionals, and institutional research team members, we identified four quantitative data points in Collaboratory data that we combined into a partnership strength model. The model identified 99 out of 2,083 community-university partnerships that might be classified as high-strength. The model’s results represent an initial jumping-off point for future research, including qualitative assessment of the 99 strongest partnerships to validate the model.
Additionally, we argue that quantitative assessment of qualitative partnerships is by no means a silver bullet, but instead represents a pragmatic method of high-level assessment and quick filtering of large datasets of qualitative partnership data that would otherwise be prohibitively time-consuming.