Walking the Talk of Community Engagement / Prouver, concrètement, notre engagement communautaire

There are many opportunities to meet and publish about community engagement. David Phipps (York University) and Jane Wedlock (United Way York Region) are active in these spaces but we’re wondering how others participate. How do we support authentic community campus partnerships?

Les occasions de rencontre et de publication dans le domaine de l’engagement communautaire sont nombreuses. David Phipps et Jane Wedlock sont présents et actifs dans cette sphère, mais se demandent de quelle façon les autres y participent. Comment soutenons-nous d’authentiques partenariats entre le campus et la collectivité?

Walk the talkThis is something David has been mulling over ever since York’s KMb Unit welcomed Angie Hart (Community University Partnership Program, University of Brighton) as the keynote speaker at our first KMb Expo in 2007. Angie asked for additional funding to bring her community partner and co-author Kim Auman. Continuing her commitment to authentic partnerships David had the pleasure of working with Dave Wolffe (Cupp) and his community partner Paul Bramwell at UK KMb events in Sheffield (2013) and in London (2014). All of Angie’s academic publications have a community partner.

We don’t see many others in our community of engaged scholars walking the talk of authentic engagement the way Cupp does. Cupp’s model requires us to consider how we work in partnership, what values underpin our work, how we build capacity to fully engage as research partners and what types of support do both community and campus partners need to create authentic partnerships.

David attended the 15th Annual Conference of the Engagement Scholarship Consortium in October. Of the approximately 120 presentations only 14 had co-authors from organizations that appeared to be from community. There were somewhere in the order of 500 delegates. It was impossible to say how many were non-academics but in a Monday workshop of approximately 60 participants only 2 identified as from community.

We both attended “Pursuing Excellence in Collaborative Community-Campus Research: A National Summit – November 3 and 4, 2014” A survey of delegates was undertaken before the meeting. When answering the question “where do you put your energy (community or campus)” 79% of attendees answered “balanced”, “mostly community” or “community all the way”. So there was good community facing work. But when asked where they were employed only 9 out of the 60-ish attendees identified as non-academic.

We looked at the editorial boards of journal publishing on engaged scholarship. Almost none of those reviewed had non-academic members on their editorial boards:

  • Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship (JCES): Yes
  • Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement (JHEOE): no
  • Engaged Scholar Journal: no
  • Gateways: international journal of community research and engagement: no
  • Journal of Community Engagement and Higher Education: no
  • The Australasian Journal of University-Community Engagement: no editorial board identified

Four hands each holding a piece of a puzzleAlong with Steve Gaetz (York U) we wrote and editorial to a special edition of Scholarly and Research Communications that included papers from the first York Symposium on the Scholarship of Engagement. We observed that only three of seven papers included non-academic co-authors even though the Symposium required that presentations be made with non-academic co-presenters.

David has previously written about the failure of academics to write about community based research without including their community partners as co-authors (see question 3 here)

Which makes us ask: where is the community in community engaged scholarship?

It was great traveling together to the CCCR National Summit as it gave us a chance to check in and share perspectives. We have co-authored grant applications together. The majority of funds are held at UWYR not at York U even for SSHRC and CIHR funded grants. David includes community partners as co-authors on our scholarly publications. These include: Walter Johnston, Youth Emergency Shelter of Peterborough; Shelly Cardinal, Red Cross; Rossana Coriandoli, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; Gary Myers, @KMbeing; and Daniele Zanotti and Jane Wedlock from United Way York Region.

As a community partner who engages with both academic and community based research, Jane Wedlock is uniquely positioned to provide a community reflection on this issue.

My involvement in co-authoring is as a result of request from an academic partner.  I confess, it is not usually on the top of my ‘to do” list. It takes time away from other activities, but it provides an important opportunity to reflect on our shared journeys, to consider the changing dynamic of partnership, the issue of power in relationships, where and how voices are heard or not.   As a partner I feel an obligation to bring a community perspective to this particular aspect of our mutual work – not a definitive voice, but a perspective.

As someone who has benefitted from financial support made possible through our partnership with York U that has facilitated my ability to be employed in KMb projects, attend and participate in different events/conferences related to CE Scholarship and Knowledge Mobilization, connect with people from across Canada and internationally,  I have gained a much broader understanding of the field CE scholarship – the debates that are ongoing with KMb, partnerships, how best to collaborate, to tell the story of impact –  the “how” of all of this.

Co-authoring is an acknowledgement/recognition of partnership.  Does it benefit me?  Yes. Is it helpful to our academic partner? Yes. Does it demonstrate authenticity in relationship? I believe so; otherwise the invitation and the positive response wouldn’t be there.

There are a few reasons for engaged scholars talking the talk but not walking the walk of authentic partnerships.

  1. Funding: it costs money to travel with our community partners. This is true, but then why not include them as co-authors?
  2. Traditional academic paradigms: Engaged scholars are scholars first and engaged second. They work in academic structures that, with a few exceptions, do not create incentives or rewards for engagement.
  3. Time: academics have time to undertake research and participate in conferences. Community partners do not. But this doesn’t explain not including partners as co-authors.

This is not a critique of the great work undertaken by academics working with community, in community and for the benefit of community. This is an observation that there are role models like Angie Hart and Dave Wolff and their partners from Cupp who walk the talk and show us the authenticity of true partnership.

David Phipps, RIR-YorkU

Jane Wedlock, United Way York Region

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