Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Nonprofit and Social Economy Research

The Impact of a Community-University Collaboration: Opening the "Black Box"

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Nonprofit and Social Economy Research

The Impact of a Community-University Collaboration: Opening the "Black Box"

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Within the Social Economy, universities are working with community representatives to undertake research projects, service learning opportunities, and increasingly, academic program development, all with the objective of addressing social challenges. As many are quick to caution, the community is actually a sum of its various actors, interests, accountabilities and needs, which university staffand faculty must work to understand. Like the community, the university is a complex organization with politics, conflicts, tensions, and competing goals and objectives. Within this larger context, these various components, focusing on government, academic and administrative stakeholders, will impact and may even limit aspects of a collaboration between the university and its community partners. Through examination of a case study related to a graduate program, which was collaboratively developed between the university and community representatives, this article will identify and explore those accountabilities and the resulting impact on the collaboration. It will conclude with recommendations for similar partnerships.

RÉSUMÉ

Dans l'économie sociale, les universités travaillent de pair avec des représentants de la communauté pour lancer des projets de recherche, créer des occasions d'apprentissage par le service et, de plus en plus, développer des programmes d'études universitaires; tout cela dans le but de régler des défis sociaux. Beaucoup s'empressent de formuler une mise en garde : la communauté est en réalité la somme des divers acteurs, intérêts, responsabilités et besoins qui la composent, ce que les membres du personnel et les facultés des universités doivent tenter de comprendre par leur travail. Au même titre qu'une communauté, une université est une organisation complexe constituée de politiques, de conflits, de tensions ainsi que d'objectifs concurrents. Dans ce contexte large, ces diverses composantes, en particulier les intervenants gouvernementaux, universitaires et administratifs, auront des conséquences sur la collaboration entre l'université et ses partenaires communautaires, et peuvent même en limiter certains aspects. Cette étude définit et analyse ces responsabilités et leurs conséquences sur la collaboration par le moyen d'une étude de cas liée à un programme d'études supérieures développé grâce à la collaboration de l'université et des représentants de la communauté. L'étude se termine par des recommandations visant des partenariats similaires. Keywords / Mots clés : Community based partnerships; Collaboration; Social economy; Graduate programs; Case study, University of Victoria / partenariats communautaires; collaboration; économie sociale; programme d'études supérieures; étude de cas; Université de Victoria

INTRODUCTION

As communities, organizations and individuals strive to address the challenges and opportunities that face them, they are partnering with universities to accomplish their goals (Baum, 2000). These collaborations range from participatory research projects (BALTA, nd; Hall, 2011; Lesser & Oscos-Sanchez, 2007) and service learning activities (Bringle & Hatcher, 2002) to curriculum development and delivery (Centre for Sustainable Community Development, nd). This trend is likely to continue as universities strive to align their academic programming and research closer with community needs and issues (Savan, et al., 2009).

Challenges abound with these kinds of collaborations given universities' and communities' differing cultures and contexts. Each must make an effort to learn about the other to ensure effective working relationships (Baum, 2000; Lefever-Davis, et al., 2007; Prins, 2005). According to many papers on community-based research, responsibility for this rests with researchers and others associated with the university. These individuals must approach the community with cultural humility and ensure that they understand its culture and context before undertaking activities with them (Lefever-Davis, et al. …

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