“Community” and “engagement” are two frequently used words that can mean different things to different people. UNCG has thought critically about community engagement in a variety of contexts, including community-engaged scholarship, community-engaged research, community-engaged teaching, and community-engaged service.
The following definitions were developed to inform faculty discourse and are contextualized and, therefore, shaped by the P&T guidelines developed and adopted by UNCG faculty. Additional tools and resources may be found on the Scholarly Resources page.
Read this introductory letter to these definitions from the Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development and the Special Assistant for Community Engagement at UNCG.
Want to share these with others? Download a pdf of the definitions.
YOU are community!
Although UNCG is certainly a member of the community, we use community to mean individuals, groups, and organizations external to campus. Our community extends beyond the local, to include regional, state, national, and global partners and may come from a variety of sectors, including but not limited to nonprofits, businesses, civic agencies, and schools.
Community engagement (also referred to as civic engagement) is the “collaboration (among) institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.”
Through community engagement, community and university knowledge and resources are brought together in and out of the classroom, as well as on and off campus to “enrich scholarship, research, and creative activity; enhance curriculum, teaching and learning; prepare educated, engaged citizens; strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility; address critical societal issues; and contribute to the public good.” The “community” in community engagement is not defined by sector, such as private or public, for-profit or nonprofit; rather, community is broadly defined to include individuals, groups, and organizations external to campus that use collaborative processes for the purpose of contributing to the public good.
Reciprocity is the recognition, respect, and valuing of the knowledge, perspective, and resources that each partner contributes to the collaboration.
What’s the Difference between Community Engagement and Community Service?
Community engagement and community service (often referred to as “outreach”) are often confused and/or conflated because both approaches may occur in the community and/or include activities that involve or serve community entities. While the latter describes activities that are provided to, intended for, or done in communities, the former describes activities that are undertaken with community members in a context of reciprocal partnership. Rather than activity or place, the key distinction between community engagement and community service can be determined by the processes and purposes that each emphasizes, as further explicated below:
- community engagement requires collaborative, reciprocal processes that recognize, respect, and value the knowledge, perspective, and resources shared among partners, whereas community service may be provided in a uni-directional, often times “expert,” model in which university resources are extended to serve community individuals, groups, organizations and the public in general;
- community engagement intends to serve a public purpose, builds the capacity of each of the individuals, groups, and organizations involved to understand and collaboratively address issues of public concern, whereas community service activities may focus on the delivery of expertise, resources, and services to community individuals, groups, organizations, and the public in general.
It is important to recognize that the University values many forms of service – and not all faculty are required to integrate community engagement into their faculty work. Clarity between the various types simply allows for greater recognition of the duration of the commitment, the resources needed, the processes followed, and outcomes expected of each form of service.
What does Community Engagement mean for Students?
Students may practice community engagement either inside or outside of the classroom, with and without faculty and staff, individually, in groups (e.g., clubs, Greek organizations), through programs (e.g., academic and co-curricular, living-learning communities), research, creative activities, and courses – when enacted collaboratively with community partners through processes that exemplify reciprocal partnerships and public purposes.
What does Community Engagement mean for Faculty Work?
In the context of university documents and policies regarding faculty work, community engagement refers to research/creative activities, teaching, and service activities that are collaboratively undertaken by faculty members with community partners, staff, and/or students through processes that exemplify reciprocal partnerships and public purposes.
What is Community-Engaged Scholarship?
The term community-engaged scholarship (sometimes also referred to as the scholarship of engagement) refers to research/creative activities, teaching, and service undertaken by faculty members in collaboration with community members (and often students) and that embody the characteristics of both community engagement (i.e., reciprocal partnerships, public purposes) and scholarship (i.e., demonstrates current knowledge of the field/discipline, invites peer collaboration and review, is open to critique, is presented in a form that others can build on, involves inquiry). It is important to note that scholarship and research are not synonymous, as stated in the UNCG University-wide Promotion and Tenure Guidelines, and, therefore, should not be conflated. It is also important to note that not all community-engaged activities undertaken by faculty comprise scholarship. Definitions of community engagement, reciprocity, and community are provided in the section above: Community Engagement.
Other useful definitions of community-engaged scholarship include:
- “teaching, discovery, integration, application and engagement that involves the faculty member in a mutually beneficial partnership with the community and has the following characteristics: clear goals, adequate preparation, appropriate methods, significant results, effective presentation, reflective critique, rigor and peer-review.”(1)
- “the collaborative generation, refinement, conservation, and exchange of mutually beneficial and societally relevant knowledge that is generated in collaboration with, communicated to, and validated by peers in academe and the community.”(2)
Community-engaged scholarship is often contrasted with the scholarship of application: while the latter “assumes that knowledge is generated in the university or college and then applied to external contexts with knowledge flowing in one direction, out of the academy,” the former “requires going beyond the expert model that often gets in the way of constructive university-community collaboration…calls on faculty to move beyond ‘outreach,’… [and] emphasizes … genuine collaboration: that the learning and teaching be multidirectional and the expertise shared.”
In accordance with traditional disciplinary expectations of faculty scholarship, the rigor of community-engaged scholarship should be demonstrated through the use of methods that are appropriate to the goals, questions, and context of the work. Community-engaged scholarship involves community partners to identify appropriate areas of inquiry, design studies and/or creative activities, implement activities that contribute to shared learning and capacity building, and/or engage in other activities that bridge university/college and community contexts. It uses the information gathered, the actions taken, and the relationships established to bring about positive change within the community and the higher education institution. Its products include, but are not limited to, publications, exhibitions, and programs, as well as partnerships, courses, grants, curricula, experiences, or understandings that simultaneously advance the mission and goals of the higher education institution(s) and of the community organization(s), or the public more generally.
Finally, is important to recognize the integration of faculty roles, particularly in community-engaged scholarship. Faculty who undertake community-engaged scholarship may simultaneously contribute to multiple institutional goals by conducting their academic roles in an integrated way, using their research to inform their teaching, their service and teaching as sources of ideas for their research, and their teaching as opportunities to connect student learning with community issues – any of which may be done in collaboration with communities. For example, faculty may bring their research into the classroom, involve students in cutting-edge research, integrate their research interests with community issues, and teach with and learn from community members. All faculty, not only those who practice community engagement, may benefit from a system that allows faculty to demonstrate overlapping activities and roles and to show how one contributes to another. Ultimately, “failure to account for the ways and the extent to which faculty jointly produce teaching and service, research and teaching, or service and research may underestimate faculty contributions to institutional productivity.”
It is important to recognize that the University values many forms of scholarship – and not all faculty are required to integrate community engagement into their faculty work. Clarity between the various types simply allows for greater recognition of the duration of the commitment, the resources needed, the processes followed, and outcomes expected of each form of scholarship.
Commission on Community-Engaged Scholarship in the Health Professionals. Linking Scholarship and Communities. Seattle, WA: Community-Campus Partnerships for Health, 2005. Retrieved September 1, 2015 from https://depts.washington.edu/ccph/pdf_files/CES_RPT_Package.pdf
What is Community-Engaged Research/Creative Activity?
Community-engaged research and creative activity is the collaborative generation, refinement, conservation, and exchange of reciprocally beneficial and societally relevant knowledge that is generated in collaboration with, communicated to, and validated by peers in academe and the community. Community-engaged research and creative activity produces products informed by (multi)disciplinary knowledge, including, but not limited to publications, exhibitions, and programs that simultaneously meets campus mission and goals as well as addresses issues of societal concern. It is research or creative activity that involves systematic inquiry, produces results that are publicly observable, allows for critique, and is available for others to use and develop. Community-engaged research and creative activity demonstrate methodological rigor through the use of methods that are appropriate to the goals, questions, and context of the work. Community-engaged research and creative activity is undertaken in collaboration with community partners who help set research questions, determine methodology, join in creating research projects, and/or engage in other activities that bridge academic and community contexts.
What is Community-Engaged Teaching?
Community-engaged teaching describes those activities that 1) honor principles of community engagement (reciprocal partnerships, public purpose), and 2) provide opportunities for students (both enrolled and not enrolled at UNCG) to collaborate with faculty and community members for the dual—and integrated—purposes of learning and service. Community-engaged teaching may be enacted through a variety of practices, including, but not limited to: service-learning experiences, on-site courses, clinical experiences, professional internships, community-based research or creative activities, collaborative programs, study-abroad courses and experiences, international instruction, and distance education courses –when these practices involve reciprocal partnerships with community members, groups, or organizations. Community-engaged teaching may also be enacted in collaboration with community partners for instruction to non-UNCG students (“instruction to communities and other constituencies” ). Community-engaged teaching activities enhance the education of the students (whether enrolled at UNCG, or not) as well as the capacity of community members, groups, organizations, or the public more generally to address issues of societal concern. High quality community-engaged teaching is undertaken in collaboration with community partners who inform students’ public-serving projects to 1) help students make connections between their academic learning objectives and issues of societal concern; 2) “foster intellectual inquiry to prepare students for meaningful lives and engaged citizenship;” 3) ensure the service addresses issues of societal concern; and 4) build capacity of students and community members, groups, and organizations to affect positive change.
What is Community-Engaged Service?
Community-engaged service describes those activities that 1) honor principles of community engagement (reciprocal partnerships, public purpose), and 2) “enable the University to carry out its mission, contribute to the function and effectiveness of the faculty member’s profession and discipline, and reach out to external communities and constituencies, such as government agencies, business, and the arts.” Faculty who use their academic knowledge, skills, methods, and paradigms to address practical affairs and problem-solving in the context of collaboration and reciprocity build their own capacity, as well as the capacity of the academy and community members, groups, and organizations to understand and collaboratively address issues of public concern. Faculty may provide community-engaged service in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to, collaborating with schools, organizations, businesses, advocacy groups, community groups, and civic and public agencies to develop policies, programs, grants, curricula, or understanding; developing and participating in partnerships between academic programs and external agencies, such as for the purposes of internships and service-learning courses; or providing leadership in or making significant contributions to economic and community development activities. As noted in the definition of community engagement, it is important to distinguish between activities that occur in the community or which provide service to communities through a one-way approach, and those that follow a collaborative approach with community members, groups or organizations to build capacity for positive societal change. While community service describes activities that are provided to, intended for, or done in communities, community-engaged service describes activities that are undertaken with community members in a context of reciprocal partnership. Again, rather than activity or place, the key distinction between community engagement and community service can be determined by the processes and purposes that each emphasizes. The University values many forms of service; clarity between the various types allows for greater recognition of the duration of the commitment, the resources needed, the processes followed, and outcomes expected.
1 Commission on Community-Engaged Scholarship in the Health Professions. Linking Scholarship and Communities. Seattle, WA: Community-Campus Partnerships for Health, 2005. Retrieved September 1, 2015 from https://depts.washington.edu/ccph/pdf_files/CES_RPT_Package.pdf.
2. Driscoll, A., & Sandmann, L. (2011).