The renewed focus on the roles universities can and ought to play in fostering civic engagement among students and in the communities where they are located dates to the mid-1990s. One outgrowth of this renewed focus has been the increasing attention paid to Community-University Partnerships (CUPs). CUPs include community-service learning programs, community-based research projects, and a range of other initiatives that aim to put the resources of universities, including the skills of faculty and students, to work in and with community members. A growing body of literature documents successful CUPs practices and projects, including the challenges they have faced (see the open access journal Gateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement). While a consensus seems to be emerging around a few points that lead to successful partnership development (e.g., the importance of trust-based relationships, ensuring that the university partner does not position itself as “the expert”) and the opportunities those partnerships can create for all partners, many questions are unresolved. There is still a great deal of room for shared learning, both for those with a great deal of experience in working with CUPs and those new to the idea. It is in this spirit of shared learning that we are creating this blog space and invite broad participation.
Each day this week, we will post a new question, starting with broad questions about how universities and communities can effectively engage communities and grassroots groups, going on to explore differences for rural and urban communities and private and public institutions, and closing with a question on how best to capture and share the knowledge we generate in developing these partnerships. We post a new question each day in the hopes that the posts will be easier to follow, but encourage your comments on all questions over the course of this week and beyond.
Question 1: How can universities effectively engage in and sustain partnerships with grassroots and other community groups?