Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Revealing the Complexity of Community-Campus Interactions

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Revealing the Complexity of Community-Campus Interactions

Article excerpt


Inter-organizational collaborations encourage inter-professional learning and joint problem solving (Addicott, McGivern, & Ferlie, 2006). Our research investigates inter- organizational collaborations that include academic institutions within the partnership. In this paper, we examine collaborations between people who work in academic settings (e.g., universities and community colleges) and people who work in a diversity of other institutional environments (e.g., funding organizations, community coalitions, non-profit agencies, government and non-governmental organizations, media, and research insti- tutes). We describe these as community - campus collaborations. They are also examples of engaged scholarship where academic scholarship has relevance and/or utility beyond the university.

Other academic researchers have identified social, political, and institutional factors that enable and constrain community - academic interactions (e.g., reciprocity, trust, communication, distributed leadership, and adequate funding) (Barnes et al., 2009; Is- rael, Schultz, Parker, & Becker, 1998). Less research has aimed to understand how col- laborations engender trust or reciprocity, distribute leadership, or enable the equitable distribution of funds among partners. This paper uses qualitative research data from four community - academic interactions across Canada to contextualize the conceptual and structural features that have been identified in the literature as supporting or detracting from a collaborative enterprise. On their own, the case studies illuminate specific local contexts of community - academic collaboration. By situating these case studies against one another and against the literature on community-based research and engaged schol- arship, the paper aims to capture the complexity of community - academic collaboration and suggest ways to improve the efficacy of these interactions.

Our research illuminates specific social and institutional conditions that enable equi- table and productive collaborative activities, as well as the conditions that make it chal- lenging for community and academic organizations to engage in joint efforts to stimu- late positive social change. While our analytic foci are the "processes of interaction," this study does not represent a process evaluation; rather, it views social impact as a process that is best understood by "staying close to the activities" (Spaapen & van Drooge, 2011) of community - campus interaction.

The paper begins with a description of our research activities and analytic framework. From here, we review the literature on engaged scholarship and community-based re- search. After the literature review, we articulate project findings. In this section, we point to several features that are characteristic of effective collaborations. Our analysis illumi- nates how these conditions actually play out as relations among collaborators. Our goal is to convey the interactivity between social, institutional, and infrastructural factors that shape collaborative processes and outcomes.

The Study

Based on a scan of 88 community - academic collaborations across Canada (One World, 2011), four community - campus interactions were selected for ethnographic in- vestigation. We selected these four out of the 88 because we wanted representation from French- and English-speaking groups and from organizations in eastern and western Canada. In addition, we chose these four collaborations because they reported some form of measurable change (e.g., a new policy, service, or initiative, etc.) during the initial scan.

We also conducted a comprehensive - although not exhaustive - review of the literature on community-based research and engaged scholarship. We situated a detailed investiga- tion of the four community - academic collaborations against the literature review. Pairing qualitative case-study analysis with a review of the literature, we articulate some common features of community - academic collaborations that promote mutually beneficial project outcomes. …

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