Partnerships and Power: Community Partners’ Experiences of Service-Learning


  • Sally Matthews Rhodes University



service-learning, community partners, community engagement, community development, volunteer tourism


Service-learning is a form of community engagement deemed beneficial to both students and community members. However, while there is a large and growing body of research investigating whether service-learning does indeed advance student learning, there has been paucity of research on whether service-learning benefits community partners, and in what way. This study is based on interviews with community partners at a South African university, to explore how community partners experience service-learning. The findings suggest that community partners value service-learning partnerships and believe that the presence of students does, for the most part, meet a need in the community. However, the findings also show that service-learning partners long for greater commitment and attention from the university partner, and that few partners feel empowered to initiate and drive service-learning partnerships, which are instead typically set up by the university. These findings also suggest that service-learning partnerships are of value to partners, but that more needs to be done to address the power relations inherent in partnerships between universities and community partners.

Author Biography

Sally Matthews, Rhodes University

Sally Matthews is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political and International Studies at Rhodes University.



How to Cite

Matthews, Sally. 2019. “Partnerships and Power: Community Partners’ Experiences of Service-Learning”. Africanus: Journal of Development Studies 49 (1):18 pages.



Received 2019-01-20
Accepted 2019-09-16
Published 2019-10-31