As important as the project content are the relationships and collaborative precedents being set. In all of our activities, the Center for Rural Partnerships has this question in mind: how can we, as an outreach instrument of Plymouth State University, cultivate the kinds of collaboration and brave discourse that will facilitate the effective use of our combined assets?
Though ready cash is always a challenge for a public institution, PSU is deep in other kinds of resources. Part of our mandate is to make these resources available to our regional constituencies. Pretty words, but meaningless unless we can do so in ways that have meaning and value for the region we serve. The relationships we develop as part of the Coös County Outreach Initiative help us be better responders by providing insight into what is actually wanted and needed by community partners.
CCOI is intended to be, among other things, a departure from the classic model of university-community engagement. Instead of marching in with an agenda, even a really well-intentioned one, our mission is to be alert to critical needs and aspirations among established partners and those who are new to us, to assess how we might be instrumental–do we know someone with expertise in a particular area? have we got experience with the nuts and bolts of a specific process? can we make introductions between groups and organizations who share similar goals and have complementary assets? can we help outline what stands between a community and a desired outcome? can we facilitate success? In other words, our operating posture is: how can we help?
To date, CCOI has been a live learning lab for the Center as we grow to embody the mission of the University, as well as our personal aspirations. Through its successes, as well as the places where we didn’t quite hit the target, we have come to understand our capacities, potential, and strengths more clearly. The Center’s first five years have been identity-challenging and identity-shaping. Nowhere is this more evident than CCOI.
Amid these pages, you will see plain descriptions of our efforts to date, as well present plans and future visions. We appreciate your interest and look forward to your feedback!