The Power of Community-Campus Partnerships
The CCPH Featured Member is William J. Benet, the Director of the Greater Rochester Area Community/University Partnership Project (CUPP).
The mission of CUPP is to strengthen the capacity and ability of Rochester area organizations that primarily seek to initiate multifaceted changes needed to address the root causes of inequity in the health, social, and economic sectors. CUPP's efforts focus on addressing these inequities particularly related to the underlying issue of poverty, through collaborative, comprehensive, and holistic efforts that seek to empower individuals and organizations.
his interview, William describes how through his own passions and endeavors, along
with the efforts of CUPP, he is creating and supporting community-campus partnerships
to address the severe inequities affecting humankind. William views community-campus
partnerships as vital in addressing both inequity and human capacity to make change,
"We need to bring together the community and the campus in order to unleash
our human potential to reclaim control over our future." Read William's interview
to learn more about his work and view of community-campus partnerships and their
importance to the future of our societies.
The mission of the Greater Rochester Area Community/University Partnership Project (CUPP) is to strengthen the capacity and ability of Rochester area organizations that primarily seek to initiate the organizational, systems, and policy changes needed to address the root causes of health, social, and economic inequalities, particularly related to the underlying issue of poverty, through collaborative, comprehensive, and holistic efforts that seek to empower individuals and organizations.
me, the most important thing about the CUPP is our intention to go beyond addressing
symptoms and trying to bring about the societal change necessary to address underlying
problems. While we are in our infancy, and while our efforts to date have not
reached that level, it is gratifying to me that our partnership has stated that
as part of our mission.
I think that one of the unique characteristics of our CUPP is that we are a partnership of departments from 9 colleges and universities along with 2 consortia that represent hundreds of human service organizations in the Rochester area.
As I said above, I am passionate about addressing underlying problems: problems that create poverty, environmental destruction, and militarism. At this point in history our survival as a species is actually threatened by these problems arising from unchecked corporate power. We need to bring together the community and the campus in order to unleash our human potential to reclaim control over our future.
While we have begun some excellent efforts to increase the capacity of our community based organizations, I look forward to the day when we can begin working on those societal change issues.
I think the greatest challenge we face
is maintaining respect for all of the people we work with. One of the greatest
dangers is that we can begin to think that we have all of the "answers"
when in reality it is only through true collaboration that we are able to collectively
find solutions to the problems we face. For a student or professional just entering
the field I would ask them to remember that wisdom comes not only from books but
from the lived experience of every member of the community.
The biggest challenge (aside from making sure that our efforts really are collaborative, "power with" and not "power over") is always funding. We are addressing that in several ways. First, we are seeking to broaden our funding base from multiple sources so that we are not dependent on a single grant source. Second, the partnership does not apply for monies directly but through lead organizations that are most appropriate for the particular funding being sought. Third, all of our funds to date have come through one of our community partners which means that we have not been faced with the large "indirect" that most of our university partners would require if they were the lead organization.
Time is running out. We must place the health of our citizens above corporate interests. Right now, we have placed shareholder and corporate rights above the rights of the community. If we do not restore the rightful place of society as the regulator of corporate actions, then the environmental destruction, economic inequities, and military adventures engulfing our world will lead to our ultimate demise.
There are 2 major points about CCPH that led me to join. First, CCPH's commitment to creating true collaborative community/campus partnerships rather than following the traditional top-down approach. Second, the broad definition of health adopted by CCPH. The threats we face are extensive, complex, and highly resistant to change. Only by recognizing the interrelated nature of these problems can we have any hope of ensuring the health and well being of individuals and communities.
As I have tried to stress throughout this interview, it is about establishing true collaborative partnerships. All too often the Ivory Tower has remained aloof from the community or when it has engaged the community it has treated the community as a "subject" to be studied rather than as a partner in finding solutions to the problems we all face.
As a new member of CCPH the best part for me has been the conference and the exchange of knowledge that occurred there.
I think I have a somewhat unique background, combining my academic experience with over 30 years in not-for-profit management and 28 years of policy making as an elected official. From this I think I have developed the ability both to see the big picture and to master the details necessary to complete projects effectively.
At heart I am an optimist
who believes that a better world is possible and that it is through collaborative
democratic action that we can attain that better world, where the health of each
individual and of the community is strengthened. As a citizen within a democratic
society, I feel a great responsibility to help bring that better world about.
William J. Benet, PhD.
To read about previous featured members click here.
If you would like to be an upcoming CCPH Featured Member, or would like to refer a colleague, please email CCPH at email@example.com