Partnerships Between Program Participants


Projects through Partnerships, Virtual Solo Projects and Project Examples

There are several very exciting aspects of the courses. One is that participants are using the course to design real on-the-ground projects with real communities.

Another is partnerships that develop between participants. We have people living in big cities (without access to communities) partnering on projects with on-the-ground field staff with access to communities.

Partners communicate with each other about assignments through email, photo exchanges and Skype.

Course partners have included staff from large non profits, staff from small non profits, people considering career changes, business owners with a social conscience, and undergraduate and postgraduate students.

An example partnership: Maggie and Erin

Dear Tim,
Thanks a million Tim for the great touch you gave to our week 2 homework and all the great comments and advice. We have been greatly helped and are happy to move with this as our final copy.

Thanks for your words of encouragement and for all the support you are giving us on this course. Frankly speaking iLearning is very interesting and am happy to be part of this class.

Erin and I have become great friends and am glad that you introduced us to each other. We are learning so much from each other and we feel that working in partnership is a great thing. By the end of the course, we will be very knowledgeable. Thank you. Erin, thanks a million for accepting to partner with me.


Hi Tim,
I do the research and come up with a draft. Maggie is busy every day meeting with organizations and staff working on her organization’s projects, so she has first-hand information from the community and organization leaders which she can incorporate into our assignments. She also has the knowledge that comes from being a community member, which of course is very helpful for me in understanding their specific situation. Then she sends the assignment back to me with all of her changes. I go over it one last time and send it to you. We are both quite committed to our assignments and this really helps.
She also sends me many photos and tells me interesting side stories. I already feel connected to her community members and I think this makes my commitment stronger. I have to tell you that I have already found the partnership in this course so rewarding and am really enjoying working with Margaret.

It is a great program and I find that you are so helpful. Again, I’m really enjoying this experience.


Virtual Solo Projects:
A few course participants hope to do virtual solo projects. My recommendation has been to meet with someone at a local nonprofit in order to get a sound basis to your virtual project. They could provide you with a list of the needs of the community they serve to base your project around, and can provide a feedback as your project advances.

In other words, there is an organization in your town who could use help with developing a project. You can provide them this assistance and accomplish the class goals at the same time. Please remember, that you will leave this pair of classes with a real project design—ready to take to a donor. This could be a useful exchange with someone who is willing to share their community’s information with you.

Completely virtual projects.
After having worked with several thousand online students we have discovered that completely virtual projects aren’t as rich an experience—nor are they as successful as projects that partnerships experience with a real community. Why?
1. Participants doing virtual projects seem to be less likely to complete the course than participants in a partnership; partners tend to keep each other interested in the assignments.
2. Virtual projects place more of a time demand on participants because they don’t have anyone to share the workload with. Individuals in a partnership each have less weekly work to do. Partners can also jump in and cover for another partner who is out of town. So saying “because of time constraints I would prefer to work alone” is a false economy.
3. This is a course about contemporary, non profit project development. Virtual projects tend to be intellectualized and are missing the human scale—the community basis.
4. This is a great opportunity to enjoy working with someone else.
5. Students who’ve worked on a virtual project in one course and then joined a partnership for the next course have expressed how much more fun and engaging it is to be in a partnership.

If you still feel the need to do a completely virtual project, please send your instructor a request for a project subject (food security, water, children’s health, etc.), and they will send you a basic needs assessment developed by a former student (from Assignment One). This way your project will be based upon an actual contextual situation. Also, if you get stuck they can guide you by using the former students results.

Real Participant Projects in Process:
From needs assessments sent to me by course members, we are able to see that there are many common problems worldwide including:

Activities for the elderly, adaptation to climate change, alternative energy,  bicycle paths, business skills training for immigrants, community development, conservation, elderly care facilities, financial literacy, formation of a farmer’s association, natural resource management, recycling, marine protected areas, revitalization of an Iowa town,  income generation, and vocational skills training.

Student projects have to date focused on over 270 project concepts.

It is with a community’s prioritized list of needs/problems that participants begin designing sustainable, impact-oriented projects. From these problems,  course participants have developed real projects with real communities in 153 countries, that are impacting over 400,000 beneficiaries.

We look forward to working with you online.