Welcome to the service and social innovation aspect of the Center for Careers, Life, and Service (CLS).


The CLS's service and social innovation team seeks to engage and equip the next generation of socially just change-makers.


Our vision is to design and support mutually beneficial partnerships that are community driven and serve the common good. These partnerships shall leverage the unique expertise and interests of our community as well as that of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. In this manner we aim create a socially just opportunities for students to intentionally explore how service and social innovation may blend with one's personal values, academic interests, and emerging professional skills and goals.


  • Community Driven Collaborative Partnerships: Service and social innovation partnerships should be characterized by mutual trust and respect. In order to guard against service and social innovation becoming colonialism in the guise of serving the common good, relationships should be characterized by subject-subject relationships.
    • Subject-subject relationships recognize each member of a partnership as a subject literally and figuratively. Historically in service and social innovation relationships, the one serving or innovating has been the subject, or the primary the actor who acts upon the served, the needy, the object. Moreover, the subject, the service provider or innovator, assumes the power to define the problem as well as the solution. When those serving then implement their solution upon the community served, the service relationship becomes colonial: the served lose their right to self-determination. Within a subject-subject philosophy of service, relationships are mutual and collaborative. Both parties are self-determining actors driving and defining the action. Only if we deliberately pay attention to our subject-object biases in service may we change our assumptions and processes such that mutuality is valued and self-determination is preserved. ​
  • Diversity & Inclusion: Service and social innovation endeavors inevitably entail cross-cultural experiences. Successful endeavors acknowledge the power dynamics at play in the activity and honor the strengths and voices that each participant brings to the table. Power in collaborative service relationships should be balanced in favor of the community and the traditionally oppressed.​
  • Reciprocity: Service and social innovation endeavors do not only benefit the community. Each participant both gives and receives. Every effort should be made to develop relationships where all parties honor each other's needs while also assessing the equity of how each party is both giving and receiving.
  • Sustainability: Service and social innovation endeavors should be contextually responsive, well researched, fiscally responsible, and aim toward respectful, sustainable positive change. Every effort should be made to understand the larger social, economic, and environmental consequences of proposals and projects and should not only focus on short term solutions, but also longer term, systemic change.

Principles of Partnership

Community based work relies on partnership and collaboration. The Grinnell College community subscribes to and practices the 9 Principles of Partnership in all service, social innovation, and volunteer work.

  1. Partnerships form to serve a specific purpose and may take on new goals over time.
  2. Partners actively strive to understand each other's needs and self-interests, and develop a common language.
  3. The partnership builds upon identified strengths and assets, but also works to address needs and increase capacity or growth of all partners.
  4. The partnership seeks to balance power and share resources among partners.
  5. All partners have input in establishing clearly articulated principles and processes for the partnership.
  6. Partners seek to agree upon a mission, values, goals, measurable outcomes, and accountability for their partnership.
  7. There is feedback among all stakeholders in the partnership, with the goal of continuously improving the partnership and its outcomes.
  8. Partners share the benefits of the partnership's accomplishments.
  9. Partnerships can dissolve and may need to plan a process for closure.