University of Iowa

IISC Community Partners

Keokuk has been chosen as the next IISC community partner!

The Request for Proposals application period for 2019-20 academic year closed on February 1, 2019. 

Do you want your community to be an IISC partner in the future? 

IISC partners benefit from collaborations with University of Iowa faculty, staff, and students from a wide range of departments across campus. 

Over the course of the year, over 100 students will work on projects identified by the community partners, contributing more than 10,000 hours of work. 

Contact us anytime to start preparing for the next open application period!


What is IISC?

Located in the Provost's Office of Outreach and Engagement at the University of Iowa, the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities (IISC) is a campus-wide effort to enhance the capacity of rural and urban communities in Iowa to address the environmental, equity, economic, and cultural issues they face today and to help them plan for a sustainable future.  Through enhanced community partnerships, IISC invests University of Iowa faculty and student time to increase the capacity of Iowa communities to accomplish meaningful projects.  By taking students out of the classroom and into communities to complete real-world projects, IISC accomplishes two university-wide goals: enhancing sustainability across the state and transforming teaching and learning at the University of Iowa.

IISC was founded in 2009 in the School of Urban & Regional Planning by Dr. Chuck Connerly.  Since 2009, IISC has worked with small and medium-sized communities in Iowa to advance sustainability across the state.  In fall 2012, due to the success of these projects and the recognition that sustainability in Iowa spans a variety of disciplines, the IISC expanded to become a campus-wide initiative.  To continue growing campus-wide partnerships, the IISC joined the Provost's Office of Outreach and Engagement in fall 2014.  To date, more than 130 projects in 16 Iowa communities have been completed through IISC partnerships.

The magnitude and depth of an IISC partnership make it unlike any other resource or service we offer.  Whereas some partnerships might consist of single project, IISC partnerships bring together faculty, staff, and students from across campus to complete 10-20 projects with the selected IISC community over the course of an academic year.  More than 100 students from various disciplines will bring their talents, enthusiasm, and creativity to the partnership.

Focusing concurrent projects in one geographic area results in a profound, transformative impact not only because of the number and quality of projects, but also because citizens coalesce around a shared vision and shared goals in order to make the partnership successful.   Building sustainable communities requires a collaborative spirit and desire to partner with a diverse array of community actors, including local governments, non-profit organizations, local businesses, and educational institutions.  We believe these connections are the heart of this work. 

We partner with communities through a formal competitive process. Typically, the IISC Request for Proposals (RFP) is released in late fall, with communities selected by the IISC Advisory Board in early spring.  Proposals are evaluated according to the level of community support, the capacity of the community to take on the full partnership, the quality of projects proposed, the likelihood that the proposed projects can be matched with UI courses, and the local financial contribution.

The Office of Outreach of Engagement staff is available to guide communities through the RFP process, and to determine if the IISC partnership is a good fit for a community.  Successful applications often involve preliminary discussions and community visits.  During the open proposal application period, two phone calls are scheduled to explain the partnership and process, and to answer questions from prospective community partners.

RFP announcements are posted on this website and our social media, and are shared broadly through partners like the Iowa League of Cities and the Professional Developers of Iowa.  For more details on the IISC partnership, including community expectations, please read through Frequently Asked Questions, or e-mail us if you have questions.

Is the IISC partnership for only one year?

The initial IISC partnership contract will last for one academic year (August – May). IISC works hard to ensure that local organizations, schools and colleges are involved in IISC projects, increasing the likelihood that the work completed during IISC’s partnership year will be sustained after the partnership is finished. In addition, IISC is open to working with a partner community beyond the first year in order to maximize the impact of the partnership. In the past, partnerships have been extended for a second year.  Work beyond the initial partnership year is subject to IISC capacity and will entail a separate contract.


How many projects are expected to be completed per each community partner throughout the year?

IISC encourages applicants to propose at least 20 – 30 projects in their proposal, with the expectation that at least 10 – 15 projects will come to fruition per community per academic year. Please note that most projects will be one semester long and occur in either the Fall semester (August – December) or Spring semester (January – May), depending on course availability. A few projects may span both semesters, particularly projects related to urban planning or marketing.


Should we propose projects from a variety of academic disciplines?

Yes! IISC approaches sustainability from a holistic perspective, and highly encourages applicants to propose projects from a variety of disciplines, including urban planning, engineering, geoscience, public health, communications and public relations, law, business and marketing, arts and music, and library and information sciences. Additionally, proposing projects across multiple disciplines increases the likely number of projects that IISC staff will be able to match with UI courses, leading to a higher number of projects completed by the end of the partnership.


Does the University of Iowa have a School of Architecture? Should we propose projects related to architecture and landscape architecture?

The University of Iowa does not have a School of Architecture. In general, IISC’s ability to complete architectural projects is limited. However, if architectural design elements exist in a project related to urban planning or engineering, IISC may have the capability to complete these projects and encourages applicants to include them in their proposed projects. If IISC cannot address these portions of the project, we will work with community partners to evolve the goals of the project and assist communities in making connections with faculty and staff in the University of Iowa and Iowa State University who may have the capacity to do so.


I’m a small community and I’m concerned about the financial contribution requirement. If we have little or no money to contribute, should we apply?

Yes! The financial contribution is just one factor amongst a variety of factors that are evaluated in choosing an IISC partner community. We also encourage small communities to apply as part of an application through a regional Council of Government, county governments or other regional entities. If you need assistance connecting with regional partners, please contact Travis Kraus at and we will provide you with information on your regional entities.

Past and Current Partners

Map of Current and Past Partners


IISC Advisory Board