Wisdom About Community Campus Collaborations From Those Who Live Them / Sagesse des intervenants dans les collaborations entre l’université et la communauté

In one week I facilitated workshops on supporting awesome community campus collaborations with two very different non-academic audiences. The similarities are interesting, the differences intriguing. The method was fantastic.

Dans la même semaine, j’ai animé des ateliers sur les moyens de produire de remarquables collaborations entre l’université et la communauté, auprès de deux publics non universitaires très différents. Les ressemblances sont intéressantes, les différences, fascinantes. La méthode est tout simplement fantastique.

Lee Rose at CUExpo 2015The method doesn’t have a name, but I call it the CKX (Community Knowledge Exchange) method because that’s where I first participated in it. The CKX method has no power point slides. It has no “expert”. The facilitator engages participants in a 60 minute process to draw wisdom from the room. For 20 minutes participants pair off an interview each other with three pre-set questions. For the next 20 minutes pairs gather in groups of 4-6 and answer three questions:

  1.  Based on what you’ve learned in your 1-on-1 conversation, what are the 1-3 key ingredients for awesome community campus collaborations?
  2. If you had three wishes for what could be changed to engage in awesome community campus collaborations, what would they be?
  3. From this experience, what 1-3 actions could you or will you take to create a future in which enables awesome community campus collaborations?

Then there is a 20 minute report back collecting the key ingredients, the wishes and the actions. And there’s your wisdom. From the room. Not from a presumed “expert” but from participants reporting on their own experiences. See the discussion guide for this workshop- Community Campus Collaboration CKX Discussion Guide, April 2015

The cool thing is you can replace “community campus collaborations” for pretty much any subject and draw the expertise and wisdom from the room, so long as the participants have experience in the area. This is not a space for novices seeking to learn, but a space for practitioners seeking to share their expertise.

I used this method with the United Way Centraide Canada conference (May 21, 2015 in Saskatoon) where I co-facilitated with Janice Chu, Director of Community Investment, United Way Toronto and York Region. We did the workshop after making a 60 minute presentation on our eight year knowledge mobilization collaboration.

I also used this method at the C2UExpo (May 27, 2015 in Ottawa) where I co-facilitated with Lee Rose, CKX Sherpa for Community Foundations Canada. Their responses to the three questions are below:

Question United Way Centraide Canada C2UExpo
Key Ingredients Local representation from community and industry Authentic relationships (x2)
Not just about research Good communication (x2)
Relationships can’t be too rigid Transparency and trust (x2)
Capacity and commitment of all partners Shared vision (x2)
Shared/common vision (x7) Issues identified by community
Engage the students
Money and resources
Connection to UW campaign
Strong relationships at multiple levels
Tangible, relevant, applicable research
Presentation of research results in useful manner
Open and trusting relationships
Wishes Funding to implement the research findings (x2) Have authentic partnerships
Openness Make results accessible (x2)
Help to find out who’s who on campus i.e. a KMb function (x6) Research questions set by community (x4)
Paid resource, not off the side of our desks Clear and transparent communication
More common, accessible language (x2) Collaboration instead of competition
Researchers knowledgeable about their community More time for research and collaboration
Organic relationships Time and money to implement research findings (x2)
Champions who understand our culture Reward the time and efforts of community partners
Culture shift to recognize the importance of evidence informed decisions
Actions National research collaboration focused on poverty Engage more and better
Invite university to community tables Create a community collaboration incubation space
Build stronger relationships on campus Meet with partners regularly
Start conversations to get to know researchers
Strategic use of UW volunteers who are campus members
Create easy access to research outcomes as data/stories for donors
MOU with clear intentions

Some common observations, but nothing surprising:

Relationships: Combined there were 12 references to relationships. It is clear that if we are to support successful community campus collaborations we must pay attention to the authenticity of relationships and balance power, resources and different forms of knowing.

Shared vision: Combined there were nine references to a shared vision as an important pre-requisite to awesome community campus collaborations.

Communications: Combined there were eight references to effective communications including making the results of research accessible to end users.

Some interesting differences:

Only C2UExpo participants identified community as the source of research topics/questions. This is a given in community based research. The more “institutional” United Ways have a predefined set of research priorities so may have already determined the relevant research questions, although UW participants did identify tangible, relevant and applicable research as a key ingredient.

Only UW participants identified a knowledge mobilization function as either a wish or a key ingredient. This might be because their more institutional perspective can imagine such a function – indeed United Way York Region had Jane Wedlock, Community Engagement and Research Manager who was the community based knowledge broker partnered with York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit. For more on this knowledge mobilization collaboration please see a paper we recently published.

One suggestion I found particularly compelling came from the United Way group, “Strategic use of UW volunteers who are campus members”. All our campuses run UW fund raising campaigns. All our campuses have UW volunteers (I am one!). Creating an on campus voice of UW volunteers is an interesting approach to creating more community campus conversations.

And finally, a note on the action desired by a C2UExpo participant: Create a community collaboration incubation space. A number of the ResearchImpact universities have such spaces including 1125@Carleton, Station 20 West (Saskatoon), 10 Carden St, (Guelph) and the Community Engagement Centre (Toronto).

There’s a whole lot of wisdom about community campus collaborations coming from the professionals and practitioners who are actively engaged in the work. Who needs an “expert” to make a presentation?  All you need is a facilitator and a great group of participants.


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