RCE Greater Atlanta - 2023

Community of Practice for Community-Academic Partnerships
Basic Information
Title of project : 
Community of Practice for Community-Academic Partnerships
Submitting RCE: 
RCE Greater Atlanta
Focal point(s) and affiliation(s)
Ruthie Yow
Organizational Affiliation: 
Service Learning & Partnerships Specialist, Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain, Georgia Institute of Technology
Erin Lebow-Skelley
Organizational Affiliation: 
Center Evaluator and Community Engagement Manager, HERCULES Exposome Research Center, Emory University
Date of submission:
Wednesday, August 30, 2023
Geographical & Education Information
United States
Greater Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Address of focal point institution for project: 
No single institution is the focal point
Target Audience:
Socioeconomic and environmental characteristics of the area : 
Atlanta and metro Atlanta have socioeconomically and racially/culturally diverse populations; with concentrations of wealth and poverty / high and low educational attainment and vast and small job opportunities and strong or weak environmental protections and amenities relative to segregation, historic and recent disinvestment, immigration patterns, white flight, and other major trends that have affected Atlanta and its metro areas/counties.
Description of sustainable development challenge(s) in the area the project addresses: 
The project seeks to bring together diverse university and community partners to better access resources and form partnerships based deeply in equity principles; the broad challenge then is reflected by #17 – partnerships for the goals, as well as challenges around quality education (#4) and reduced inequalities (#10).
This Community of Practice (CoP) is focused on Community-Academic Partnerships. It was created to support stronger and more effective relationships between community partners and colleges, universities, and K-12 institutions to enable all of us to better leverage the resources and network of the RCE Greater Atlanta. The CoP is structured as a learning and sharing community, drawing on the expertise of the members as well as inviting in collaborators to share their work and best practices.

Community partners have long wished for better, easier ways to engage with university partners, and university partners would like to be able to better support CBO (community based organization) engagement. There is also redundancy of programs and programs that aren’t utilized fully because CBOs have little way of discovering those programs and resources exist. Making inroads in the areas of ease of collaborations and ease of learning about and accessing resources for CBOs is highly relevant to advancing the SDGs by drawing on the collective gifts and assets of CBO, university, and other sectoral partners.

"What it is about: its joint enterprise as understood and continually renegotiated by its members; How it functions: the relationships of mutual engagement that bind members together into a social entity; What capability it has produced: the shared repertoire of communal resources (routines, sensibilities, artifacts, vocabulary, styles, etc.) that members have developed over time. Communities of practice also move through various stages of development characterized by different levels of interaction among the members and different kinds of activities. Communities of practice develop around things that matter to people. As a result, their practices reflect the members’ own understanding of what is important. Even when a community’s actions conform to an external mandate, it is the community — not the mandate — that produces the practice. In this sense, communities of practice are self-organizing systems.”
Excerpt from Etienne Wenger, https://thesystemsthinker.com/communities-of-practice-learning-as-a-social-system/
The Community of Practice undertook a group concept mapping process in 2019 and identified five priority areas, listed below. These are in no way set in stone; as a community of practice, the priorities and goals of the group may shift as group membership and activity shifts. The most urgent group goal at this moment is that more community partners join us and add their priorities to this living list.

1) Building capacity of community partners
2) Being/learning to be a better partner
3) Identifying and sharing the resources in our networks
4) Strengthening our networks
5) Improving collaboration/coordination among Higher Education Institutions (HEIs)
Activities and/or practices employed: 
- Community Engagement Symposium: planned for 2023 and will include opportunities to share resources and success stories, asset mapping, and networking
- A Best Practices in Community Engagement / Academic-Community Partnerships Guide
- Mobilizing STEM/STEAM: new hub and lab dedicated to global goals: Indian Creek Elementary School Global Goals Continuing Education Lab
- Resource Inventory: identifying and mapping asset and resources

- Global Communities Internship Program: internship program engaging students from five RCE member institutions to intern with three Clarkston-based refugee-facing community partners
- K-12 Action Group: advance K-12 education on the SDGs and their impact on the RCE Greater Atlanta community through an equity and justice lens
- Mobilizing Science Education At Home: distributing 23 STEM Kits and lunch boxes to students at Indian Creek Elementary School
- UNA Atlanta FREE STEM Quest LIVE Show with TWIN Science & RCE Greater Atlanta K-12 Action Group
- Sustainable Coffee Talks
Size of academic audience: 
15-20 people
Members are able to collaboratively execute projects and programs together, such as taking advantage of relationships forged in the CoP to apply for grants through the Atlanta Global Research and Education Collaborative to advance community-based sustainability education initiatives.
Lessons learned: 
We are composed of busy members, and our challenge is to make sure the meetings are valuable and dynamic and that they directly serve the interests and curiosity and needs of the group members.
Key messages: 
This Community of Practice offers a powerful way to localize “partnerships for the goals,” as it brings together community partners and academic partners from multiple institutions to learn together, share best practices and undertake sustainability education and research projects together.
Relationship to other RCE activities: 
This RCE CoP last year incorporated the RCE Greater Atlanta’s K-12 Working Group and has benefited from the experience of its members and their ability to tie together the “pipeline” development activities that can draw more K-12 and higher ed stakeholders into conversations about productive and educational SDG-oriented partnerships with CBOs.
UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
(https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs) and other themes of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
SDG 4 - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all 
SDG 10 - Reduce inequality within and among countries 
SDG 11 - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable 
SDG 17 - Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development 
Curriculum Development 
ESD for 2030-Priority Action Areas
Priority Action Area 2 - Transforming learning and training environments 
Priority Action Area 3 - Developing capacities of educators and trainers 
I acknowledge the above: