The Stakeholder Engaged Scholarship Unit: An institutional approach to community-led research partnerships for the common good

The Stakeholder Engaged Scholarship Unit: An institutional approach to community-led research partnerships for the common good

In recent years, universities have been encouraged to pursue research that will make clear and measurable contributions to society. Researchers have been asked to engage individuals, organisations and communities beyond academia in their research findings and apply them in their lives. There are many ways in which universities have enabled and incentivised engaged and impactful research. This webinar shares a case study of the Stakeholder Engaged Scholarship Unit (SESU) from Australian Catholic University (ACU). The SESU was developed as an institutional approach to community-led research for the common good, where the research priorities of community organisations drive the research agenda and the research design.

The recent Universities Accord interim report emphasises the opportunity for renewal of the Australian tertiary education sector. One of the recommendations it makes is for greater investment in community-led research. This conference paper offers an insight into one approach from a university that created institutional supports to encourage academic engagement in community-led research. It highlights how, with the introduction of the SESU, ACU adjusted structures within the University that were limiting engagements of this kind. This webinar will explore the history, purpose and activities of the SESU and show how it provides a centralised approach to collaborative community-engaged scholarship. Attendees will gain an understanding of how it operates and the institutional supports that enable the SESU to facilitate mutually beneficial and reciprocal partnerships for capacity-building and community impact.

Since 2020, the SESU has activated 19 scholarship and research projects in partnership with 21 organisations; each project an invitation to community organisations to work alongside academics to design and deliver the research, especially for the benefit of groups and individuals facing disadvantage or marginalisation. This webinar will spotlight one SESU project, proposed by SydWest Multicultural Services, for the improvement of employment services to refugees and migrants facing disadvantage in the Blacktown LGA in western Sydney. Attendees will learn about how the research project engendered a multi-agency, cross-sector working group in western Sydney on this issue.


The SESU provides a unique opportunity for partners to collaborate with the university to propose, co-design and deliver scholarship and research projects to support community-based initiatives. Community organisations are invited to share their research priorities to advance their work with communities experiencing disadvantage or marginalisation or their service to the social mission of the Catholic Church.  Community-initiated projects are selected each year for SESU funding, and the successful organisations are partnered with ACU academics, with relevant interest and experience, throughout the research process. The SESU supports capacity-building for academics in a range of ways – it increases exposure to community-led and community-engaged research in a supported environment with project management and mentorship from SESU staff, enables interdisciplinary collaborations across the university and offers opportunity for research impact on important social issues identified by communities.   


Dr Jillian Cox is the Administration and Research Officer at ACU Engagement. Jillian provides project and research support to SESU projects. She brings to ACU over 10 years’ experience in research, teaching and administrative roles in the tertiary education sector. With a background in theology, history and gender studies, she is passionate about research that produces outcomes that create opportunity and fullness of life for communities experiencing disadvantage. Jill is committed to working with new and existing community partners and can be contacted to discuss proposals for community-based research and staff involvement on SESU projects.

Ms Vivien Cinque is the Manager of the Stakeholder Engaged Scholarship Unit (SESU) at Australian Catholic University. Vivien overseas the operations of the SESU; a flagship program for ACU Engagement. Vivien works in close collaboration with partner agencies to activate community-engaged scholarship and research projects that generate impacts in the lives of people facing disadvantage. Vivien has been with ACU Engagement since its establishment in 2018 and has worked in higher education for a decade.

This session is run as part of the Carnegie Community Engagement Network offerings.

*Please note that this session is free.

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