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Building Capacity for Innovation: The Case of an Academic–Nonprofit Partnership

Stephanie Cosner Berzin, Tiziana C. Dearing


Universities often look to create deep partnerships with nonprofit organizations in their local communities. These collaborations serve the combined purpose of providing opportunities for research and education around the nonprofit setting and of enhancing community capacity. This case presents the successful partnership of the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley and the Boston College School of Social Work. The collaboration, called IF: Innovating With Families, was based in a co-located space within the United Way offices and developed a multifaceted approach of supporting research, teaching, and practice. Activities included student internships, a nonprofit innovation leadership series, a community innovation competition, a nonprofit accelerator, and several research projects. This case study, appropriate for students who are preparing to work in the nonprofit sector and for faculty and practitioners who are looking to build successful university-community partnerships, presents best practices and recommendations from this experience. Implications for practice and the classroom are discussed.

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university–community partnership; social innovation; community engagement

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