National Outreach Scholarship Conference
I just returned from the National Outreach Scholarship Conference, a great gathering of folks interested in best practices and issues related to university-community engagement. I was selected to serve on the opening planary panel on community-based participator action research. Here’s what I shared:
1. What kinds of evidence counts, for whom, and who decides?
- Over the years I’ve found three conditions that shape the answer to this question – economic, environmental, and social conditions.
- Currently the evidence most privileged in engagement work is economic. This has become highly valued by engagement providers, engagement participants, and engagement stakeholders
- Funders most often determine who decides what evidence counts. Key influencers in this process for faculty and staff include their supervisor, their peers, and those who fund their salary and work. For administrators in higher education, the funders shaping the emphasis on economic evidence are elected officials, alumni, agencies, and partners. For community partners, they are driven by the impact of a downturn in the economy that has them seeking funding and active partners to help solve the problems with tried and true methods.
2. What are the implications of delayed benefits for gathering such evidence?
- The need to have a portfolio of engagement efforts with varied maturity to have a variety of stages of evidence
- The need to engage with a wide variety of partners, geography, and disciplines for a variety portfolio of engagement (don’t put all your engagement eggs in one basket)
- The need to be up front about the need for time to reveal good data about engagement (good engagement takes time)
- Each person working on engagement efforts needs to work where their gifts fit best and their level of experience adds to the project (it may take time for faculty and staff new to engagement to build an engagement agenda and related partnerships)
- Institutions need to avoid “hit and run” engagement efforts with partners where impact is minimal and instead develop sequential, deep, and meaningful engagement relationships
3. What engagement practices and processes are most likely to result in shared benefits for community and university partners?
- The Carnegie engagement classification criteria
- The Kellogg engaged institution seven part test
- The Iowa State University “science with practice” model (scientist/practitioner partnerships for community education, Cooperative Extension)
- Community-based participatory action research
- Engaged pedagogy (the reciprocal version of service learning)
- Facilitation of community-based issues forums
- Participatory program evaluation
- Academic/practitioner policy development
4. What methods would be most fruitful in establishing the evidence base regarding the benefits of engaged scholarship and the relationship between engaged processes/practices and outcomes?
- Scientist/practitioner teams organized around educational processes and content (specifically around improved health outcomes, economic development, and science literacy)
- Development of engaged academics (engagement scholars programs, coursework, internships, fellowships, visiting scholars)
- Create a national best practices for engagement registry (start with national award winners, those highlighted in journals, set strong peer review and agreed on criteria from the literature)
What do you think? Did I miss anything? What would you suggest?