Congratulations! You made it through a month of money talk.
In our last installment of this month, we'll tackle money question #4: Financial Investments.
The Official Question Language
1st Time Applicants:
5. Does the institution invest its financial resources in the community and/or community
partnerships for purposes of community engagement and community development?
5.1. If Yes: Describe
specific financial investments and
how they are aligned with student engagement strategy:
2.4. As evidence provided for your earlier classification, you described ways in which
the institution invest its financial resources externally in the community for
purposes of community engagement and community development?
Describe the source of funding, the percentage of campus budget or dollar amount, and how it is used.
Provide relevant links related to the results of the investments, if available.
What's Really Being Asked Here?
Regarding all the money you discussed in the previous three questions,
Does all that money just get moved around inside the institution?
What resources, if any, have actually changed hands and now belong to the community?
Carnegie's Criteria for Addressing This Question
The advice for 1st time applicants in the Classification Documentation Framework specifies several places to look for these financial investments:
In this case, reclassifying applicants have explicit criteria built into the question:
source of funding,
the percentage of campus budget or dollar amount, and
how it is used.
Motivation Behind This Question
The 1st timers advice includes this statement, "Does it[the institution] spend all the money building itself up or does the community directly benefit from the funds?"
Just like higher education has a troubled historical track record of exploiting communities (particularly those of color), it also notoriously tight-fisted when it comes to funds.
This is not a problem in an of itself, but it becomes a problem when we raise funds in the name of community engagement, but it is problematic when we expect the community to pay its own way to participate in our community engagement endeavors.
Many of us in the SLCE field pride ourselves on being able to make stone soup, leverage in-kind resources to create meaningful impact. We are also operating within higher education institutions, many of which have responded to the economic downturn by embracing a model of scarcity. So this question can stump us or even raise our hackles.
One way to look at this question is to ask whether your campus use funds to increase community organizations' access to our SLCE programs and increase their ability to benefit from our SLCE programs? In that way, you could even look at this as an equity question. Community orgs come in all the colors of the rainbow, how do your funds ensure that they have equitable access to and representation in your campus SLCE programs?
Or what did you do to recognize that partnering with your campus requires very real labor from community partner organizations? While this is not meant to create an expectation that your campus is directly compensating partner organizations for that labor, we do want every partner to come away having made greater strides towards their missions than we would have if we'd worked alone.
Consider this question an invitation. The language of the application's advice to 1st timers suggests that the funds we raise and spend on community engagement tend to indirectly benefit the community. Yes, we attempt to leverage that money to create valuable outcomes for the community alongside our students and faculty. But we have a history of making the benefit to the community of an afterthought.
High quality community engagement is distinct precisely because it breaks ranks with tradition by leading with community benefit, sometimes in the form of transferring tangible "community engagement" funds and resources from our hands to theirs.
You did it! You made it through the money questions.
But since it's my birthday, prepare for a bonus.
Bonus Post - Money Questions: The Elephant in the Room