CoLab cultivates relationships between neighboring universities and communities to collaboratively address complex local problems through research, professional development, resource mobilization, and joint action.

We explore how higher education institutions can have meaningful, long-term engagements to better serve their local communities. Our vision is a Monterey County in which communities and neighboring universities co-create knowledge that promotes equity, that advances social justice, and solves local challenges.

In addition to the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, our current higher education collaborators include California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB).


CoLab prioritizes the following values in our projects and partnerships:


Community members, faculty, and students from local universities leverage their respective strengths and experiences to create change and positively impact their communities. 

Balancing Humility and Expertise

We understand and honor that expertise—knowledge of root problems and their solutions—lies equally in communities and universities. CoLab creates conditions to join these perspectives so that partners see each other as assets for achieving mutually agreed upon goals.

Commitment to Long-Term Relationships and Change

We recognize that understanding and confronting complex challenges takes time. At the heart of CoLab’s work is an emphasis on building trust, exercising transparency, and cultivating mutually-beneficial relationships between community partners and universities. 

Critical Action 

Colab projects are intentional. Partnerships result in useful and tangible outcomes from the perspectives of everyone involved.


City of Gonzales

Our first iteration is in partnership with the City of Gonzales. The Gonzales CoLab supports and builds on the innovative, youth-centered community-building processes currently underway in this small, rural community of 9,000 residents in Monterey County.

The Gonzales CoLab will mobilize higher education’s research, data-gathering, analysis, and interpretation resources to strengthen the decision-making processes, quality, and positive impact of programs in Gonzales. The primary goal is to engage in collaborative inquiry to a) analyze and reflect on current efforts, and b) make changes that enhance the community’s capacity to be more thoughtful and grow from their experiences in public innovation.

In addition, the higher education partners will be able to identify and bring into the conversation other best practices from communities across the country and across the globe, who are similarly experimenting with innovative approaches to community-building and to enhancing the quality of life for their residents.

CoLab will bring students from the Middlebury Institute and CSUMB to Gonzales as collaborators and research assistants. The presence of young college students will help connect the dots, in a very personal and human way, between the youth of Gonzales today, and their own future as college graduates and professionals.

Learn More

For more informationvisit the CoLab site.