Service Learning Network

Risk Management - Safe Partnerships

Creating safe and responsible partnerships and projects

The first steps in managing risk are to anticipate, plan, communicate, and mediate. When arranging community-based partnerships and projects, faculty and their community partners should take care to:

  • Anticipate the possible risks associated with the work to be done and the location in which the work will be done.
  • Outline procedures, techniques, and policies that mitigate the stated risks
  • Communicate to students and community-based agency staff the possible risks and the ways to mediate those risks
  • Implement mediation techniques every time a student is off-campus

Using the guidelines below, faculty can outline with their community partners the potential risk found within the work to be done, within the location of that work, the mitigation techniques that will be used, and how they will be communicated and reinforced to students and agency staff:

  1. Anticipating Risks
  • What is the scope of work the students will do? Most often, harm occurs when people involved in service-learning work outside of their intended scope.

Consider Nature of work: Timeframe (duration of work, time of day)

  • What are the risks if students exceed the scope of the agreed-upon project?
    • To the student?
    • To the clients of the agency?
    • To the University?
    • To the agency?

If students work beyond the scope of the project, any harm incurred is not the liability of the University or agency. If an agency staff person asks students to perform work outside of the scope agreed upon, students should decline the request. If a student requests that the agency allow him or her to work outside of the project scope, the agency can evaluate that request but agrees at the agency’s risk.

  • In what areas of the agency property is risk higher to students (for example, certain areas of residential facilities could be “off-limits” to students without agency supervision)?
  • What risks might be present in the neighborhood/area in which the agency is located?


  1. Outline Mediation
  • What are procedures and policies unique to the community-based setting? (for example, are child abuse history or criminal background clearances required? Are there confidentiality agreements needed? Must students sign-in and sign-out of the facility?)
  • What preparation should students have before working in this setting? (for example, this preparation might include an on-site orientation, cultural sensitivity training, street-smarts training, etc.)
  • When will this preparation occur? Moreover, who is responsible for offering the resources necessary for preparation?
  • What are the agency’s procedures if an incident or injury should occur?


  1. Communication Plan
  • How will you inform students of the risks associated with this partnership/project and the identified mediation procedures?
  • In-class orientation
  • On-site orientation
  • Handouts
  • How will you inform agency staff of the risks associated with this partnership/project and the identified mediation procedures?
  • Staff meeting
  • On-site orientation with students
  • Handouts


  1. Implement Mediation
  • How will you remind students to take necessary precautions each time they are at their community-based site?
  • How will you remind agency staff to take necessary precautions each time they host students?

Page last modified September 11, 2011