The SOFAR Model of Partnership

How do you attend to all the relationships that make up a community-based research partnership?

We often talk about community-campus partnerships as if they were a simple, two-way relationship. But neither communities nor campuses are homogeneous. Which parts of the community or the campus are actually engaged in the project?

The SOFAR model, developed by Bringle, Clayton, and Price offers a more complex understanding of partnership relationships. It breaks down partners into five key groups. Campus is divided into students, faculty, and administrators, while community is divided into residents and representatives of community organizations.

These distinctions can have real consequences for a partnership. For example, a community-based research project may have a strong relationship with staff at a community organization. However, if that organization is not run by and representative of community residents, additional engagement of residents may be critical.

The SOFAR model can help partners analyze and improve their partnerships. It is a framework for questions like: Which relationships are the most important in our partnership? Who is missing from the partnership that should be engaged? What is the quality of relationship between each pair of partners? In fact, The SOFAR model has been used to develop a survey tool that helps partners reflect on the quality and outcomes of their relationships.


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Bringle et al., 2009

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