Behind the Scenes

How is community engagement done? What does it take to be a partner?

This page provides a peek behind the scenes to share various perspectives of what it means to be in partnership. Too often the story of the individual people and the development of their relationship gets overlooked when the focus is on the activity or impact of the project. Reciprocal partnerships are an art and a science, as each is unique, evolves, and becomes transformative. By sharing the stories of established partners who have successfully found each other and worked together, we hope to inspire you to think differently and collaboratively with partners, and see yourself in a reciprocal relationship for mutual benefit.

Odell Cleveland + Bob Wineburg – The Welfare Reform Liaison Project

By Michelle Hines, University Relations Bob & Odell
Photography by Chris English, University Relations

A Jewish professor from New York state meets an African-American trucking manager from Charleston, South Carolina on a basketball court. The men become friends, launch a nonprofit that puts people to work and reduces welfare dependency to the tune of $8 million over the past 13 years.

Sound like a screenwriter’s pitch for the feel-good film of the year? Maybe. Only this story isn’t too good to be true.

Dr. Bob Wineburg, social work professor at UNCG, and the Rev. Odell Cleveland, who made the shift from the trucking industry to the ministry, tell the story of their partnership and the economic engine they created in a new book, “Pracademics & Community Change.” It is the story of an unlikely friendship but, more importantly, the success story of a grassroots nonprofit, the Welfare Reform Liaison Project, founded and grounded in Greensboro:

“I decided to enter legitimately into this awkward partnership in 1997 during lunch at a prominent Greensboro Steakhouse. Odell was in his business suit, and the whole ordeal had the feel of a highstakes business lunch, something a social work faculty member doesn’t experience too often. It is still Odell’s style. He was selling an idea and looking for my personal support and “research-based views.” So, there we were, no contracts, no memoranda of agreements, nothing formal – and there still isn’t between us. Just a simple “I will help out” on my part.”

Bob Wineburg, Ph.D., excerpted from “Pracademics and Community Change: A True Story of
Nonprofit Development and Social Entrepreneurship during Welfare Reform”

Want to learn more about Bob and Odell?

Read the book!

Are YOU in the Collaboratory?

We are sharing stories about all kinds of community connections. Whether you are providing direct services at a nonprofit organization, teaching professionals and residents of a community, conducting research with non-academics, or are engaged in some other UNCG-community project, our Community Engagement Collaboratory allows all members of UNCG-community partnerships to document and display their engagement in a centralized and Web-accessible place. The Collaboratory helps engaged individuals, groups, and organizations find one other, as well as helps to inspire and educate others so they might activate their own community-university partnerships.

If you have a project that you would like to share in the Community Engagement Collaboratory, please contribute your story here.

Want to read even more stories about community engagement?

Inspire.Change University News UNCG Alumni Magazine

UNCG Research Magazine The Carolinian