Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Have You Heard from Your Community Partners Lately?

by Ann Abbott

I try to always be honest on this blog, even when it isn't very flattering. So, I confess that last week when I was talking to community partners, I heard something that didn't make me very proud.

I made a phone call to one of the community partners to confirm details for this semester. While we were on the phone, I asked her about something else, which led her to tell me about a group of students she had in a past semester who caused her a lot of trouble. They didn't come when they said they would. They made excuses. They were a headache for her.

Here's the most embarassing part: I didn't know that had happened to her!

She hastened to add that all the other groups from all the other semesters had been wonderful. She even apologized to me for not returning my messages to tell me that there was a problem. But the truth is, it is my responsibility to make sure things are going well with my community partners. I thought I had it under control: I sent e-mails urging my partners to let me know if they had any problems. I left voice-mails saying the same thing. I would wave and say hello to my community partners when I ran into them, opening up the lines of communication. But I should have gotten in the car, driven to all the offices, looked them in the faces and said, "Is everything okay?" They are simply too busy to always return phone calls and messages.

And probably a little uncomfortable, too.

So, here's what I will do from now on:
  1. Continue sending e-mails and making phone calls frequently, but add a personal visit to every site, every semester.
  2. Continue doing everything else I already do, because things are going very well over-all. In fact, this partner trusted in our partnership enough to continue receiving students during following semesters despite this very bad experience. Of course, one more bad experience like that, and she'll probably pull the plug.

I'll be on the watch out. And I'll be knocking on doors this semester.

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