There are so many ways to get involved, and so many opportunities to choose from. How do you decide where, or with whom, you want to engage your time, energy, and talent in the community?
The Center for Community Engagement is here to help. Use this guide to make informed choices about which community partners and experiential learning opportunities align with your interests, values, capacities, and goals, and where your skills, strengths, and energy can be put to use in ways that feel good to you and partners in our communities. We are happy to meet with you to talk through these questions! Use our online booking to make an appointment with CCE staff to help you Find Your Place!
Before making a commitment to working with a community organization, it is important to know what you want to get out of the experience, what you have to offer, and what the organization is working towards and needs from you. Here are some questions and ideas for exploration to get you started!
Know the organization - How do you choose what organization(s) you want to work with?
Identify the organization’s mission, values and goals:
- Ask! - “Can you tell me what the mission of your organization is?” “What are the values your staff bring to your work?” “How do you know if your work is effective, or meeting your goals?”
- Research! - Check out the organization’s website/social media presence. Is there one? Why or why not? What information is presented? Are there other narratives out there about the organization and its work? What do their tax filings say? What can you learn from sites like Charity Navigator and GuideStar?
- Learn! - What are their priorities, practices, and work environment?
- In their work, what are their current priorities?
- What are their standards of practice- how do they approach and execute their work?
- Where does the funding come from, and what are their resource constraints?
- Who are the organization’s constituencies? Who are their partners? Who is on their Board (when applicable)?
- Can they provide supervision, training, and support to the extent/in the manner that you need or desire?
- If you need to change your commitment after you’ve begun work, what communication or notice do they need from you?
- What is a typical volunteer assignment, and how will you know what is expected?
- Is the work remote or in person, and do you need transportation?
- Will you collaborate with others or work mostly independently?
Know yourself - What are your goals, values, skills and areas you want to grow?
- Identify your personal goals and interests for community-based work - what do you want out of this experience?
- Understand your values - what are some of your core beliefs, your dispositions, and ways of acting in relationship to others that you wish to see in your work? Or, that you’d like to explore?
- Consider your skills, knowledge, and experiences, and where you want to grow and learn.
- How does this align to your academic goals at Middlebury? Is that important to you?
- How does this align to your career goals? (Think about transferable skills.)
- Capacity: Can you commit the necessary time and energy (time per week, transportation needs, semester limitations, etc.)? Talk with CCE staff about funding resources and ways to connect work to academic credit or paid employment if helpful in expanding your capacity.
- What do you bring to this work? Have you crafted a resume? What does it say? Know your own strengths, experience, skills and what you can bring to a partnership. Visit the Center for Careers and Internships.
Assess your experience - Is this what you signed up for?
Once you have spent some time in the partnership, it’s important to reflect on that experience, and see if it feels right for you:
- How does your work align with your personal goals, academic, or career goals - and interests?
- What have you done that was new to you? What was more familiar?
- What skills have you been able to develop? To practice?
- Have you had conversations with organization staff about your goals and learning?
- Did you have the support you needed from organizational staff to reflect on your growth and learning?
- Has your understanding of the organization changed? If so, how?
- Have your goals, values, or skills changed during the course of your experience? How do you feel about that?
- What things from your experience have you brought to your other endeavors? What things from your other endeavors have you brought to this work?
- Are there academic courses or disciplines you’d like to explore more as an impact of this experience?
- Sustainability - how will your work be meaningful to the organization in the future? How can you hand off knowledge and skills when you end your relationship?
- Has your work been mutually beneficial? How have you contributed to the mission of the organization?