The other day, in the midst of being interviewed, I was asked “How do you know that your community partnership work doesn’t just support neo-liberal policies? That you aren’t just helping the university fulfill a neo-liberal social role?”
While answering the second question is the topic for a much longer essay, I answered the first question by asserting a set of “principles.” Among the principles were the following:
- The particular project must support a local community organization’s larger efforts to produce systemic economic or political change in the neighborhood within the context of a demand for state/government intervention.
- The organizational leadership must be community members, working within a democratic sense of leadership.
- The organization must be a non-profit, registered within the state in which the work is taking place.
- The project must understand literacy work as a tool to produce a collective identity, based on community insights, and pointed toward linking that identity to concrete political action.
- Involved students will be positioned as researcher allies, providing the data/information from which particular policies by the organization can be decided.
- Involved students will gain insights into how literacy work can produce a collective identity and plan for action; projects based on individual volunteerism will not be considered.
- Any writing/publication project must be overseen by a community-led editorial board, consisting of organization members and non-aligned community members.
- Any writing/publication project which is circulated beyond the writing/publication group must be approved by those involved in the specific project, with individual participants having final say over the circulation of their writing, as well as the sponsoring community organization.
- Funding for the project can come from university or community sources, as long as the community has final approval. Project expenses should be kept at a level which allows sustainability as well as independence from non-community based organizations.
While I am sure more could be added and those listed expanded upon, my sense is this is at least a beginning – a tentative framework from which to develop future work.