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Emory OPEN: Where Emory meets Atlanta

Emory faculty, staff, alumni and students — shown here tending gardens at the Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture on Emory Cares Day in 2018 — can now find local volunteer opportunities on the new Emory OPEN online platform. Emory's Welcoming Day of Service is set for Sept. 11; sign up for projects via Emory OPEN or The Hub.

Before Emory laid down the planks of its community engagement strategy, which was unveiled in spring 2021, there was a desire to centralize data about the myriad ways that people at the university partner with the Atlanta community and to open up even more channels for collaboration.

“The university understood that in order to maximize the strategy’s impact, it needed to move beyond discrete, decentralized civic and community engagement efforts to achieve a more comprehensive approach,” says Alan Anderson, assistant vice president for university partnerships. 

To bring that big picture into focus, locally managed spreadsheets had to go the way of the abacus. Anderson and a number of colleagues whose daily calling is community work made the case for a resource that would pull together the many threads of Emory’s partnerships in the Atlanta area.

Emory OPEN (Opportunity, Partnership and Engagement Network) is an important next step in the best practices of community engagement already underway. 

Emory’s ‘OPEN’ door to its community

Powered by GivePulse, Emory OPEN will enable users to list, find, organize and measure the impact of service learning, community engagement and volunteerism in the community.

Available to faculty, staff, students, alumni and community partners, Emory OPEN is a single source for finding volunteer opportunities and tracking civic and community engagement — including volunteer hours, project goals, comparison charts and heatmaps — within the Emory network.  

“Emory OPEN is a game-changer on two levels: first, it will enable us to better capture, understand and tell our civic and community engagement story; second, and more important, it will help us gain insight about the collective impact Emory is having in the community as an anchor institution,” notes James Roland, senior director of Emory’s Center for Civic and Community Engagement.

Users will have the ability to create and announce events; find and sign up for service opportunities; communicate via message boards; list internship opportunities; manage groups, events and members/volunteers. Perhaps best of all, the tool has the ability to track and evaluate the effectiveness of community engagement efforts through generating reports by topic area, geographic location or other desired indicators.

Aiding the academic mission

More than a place to make connections and see firsthand the size and scale of community work at Emory, Emory OPEN is also a vital resource for the many faculty and students who practice community engaged learning and research. 

Count Vialla Hartfield-Méndez among Emory OPEN’s proponents. As the director of engaged learning at Emory’s Center for Faculty Development and Excellence, Hartfield-Méndez enjoys a national reputation for community engaged pedagogy.

“For faculty and students whose engagement with community partners is academically focused, Emory OPEN is a tool that complements best practices of community engaged learning. We want to use it to support community-campus partnerships that address our shared societal needs, integrate the values of co-creation and full participation, and foster critical reflection. The CFDE looks forward to working with faculty to make Emory OPEN a meaningful and supportive component of their community engaged pedagogy and research,” says Hartfield-Méndez. 

And the hope is that those kicking the tires on the new platform will extend well beyond Emory, such that nonprofits and service organizations can quickly and efficiently create and list events, recruit and track volunteers, and measure the mark they are making.

All aboard

To establish an account, go to Emory OPEN, then click on the “Emory OPEN Login” button in the top-right navigation and walk through the simple steps. Those registering will have the option to create a Facebook link that will allow users to share their community impact with family and friends and invite them to serve. 

A rich slate of offerings on the homepage includes a video articulating the community engagement strategy; stories from the Emory Inspired series, which chronicles work in the community; options for users to learn more based on their interests, whether it be engagement at the student, staff, faculty, alumni, health care, or global level; and a scroll of upcoming service opportunities. 

A resource library guides users to training documents and a glossary of terms, and there is an FAQ section.

“Knowing how much service is in the Emory DNA, I have every expectation that Emory OPEN will be a lively platform linking members of our own community as well as partners in the Atlanta region,” Anderson says. “And when we see what it will tell us about impact, we will be energized by the enormity of our collective efforts and, I hope, inspired to do even more.” 

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