The Definition of Community Engagement

At the heart of the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification is the definition of Community Engagement.

It is acknowledged that all Australian higher education institutions are committed to the advancement and self-determination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and reconciliation of First Nation peoples with the wider Australian community. Consideration of this commitment, therefore, is foundational to Community Engagement in the Australian context. When the term Community Engagement is used, it is done so with consideration to this commitment.

The Carnegie Foundation defines community engagement as:

β€œthe collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial creation and exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity. The purpose of community engagement is the partnership (of knowledge and resources) between higher education institutions and the public and private sectors 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.”

Community engagement, as defined above, describes activities that are undertaken with community members in reciprocal partnerships between higher education institutions and community organisations or defined community groups. Reciprocal partnerships are characterised by collaborative community and higher education institutions definitions of 1). problems, opportunities, and goals; 2). strategies and solutions; and 3). measures of success. In this way, community engagement requires recognition, respect, and value of the knowledge, perspectives, and resources of community partners, that the purpose of the partnership is a public good, building the capacity of individuals, groups, and organisations involved to understand and collaboratively address issues of public concern and pursue public purpose goals.

Community engagement is only possible when relationships are grounded in the qualities of reciprocity, mutual respect, shared authority, and co-creation of goals and outcomes. Such relationships are by their very nature trans-disciplinary (knowledge transcending the disciplines and the higher education institution) and asset-based (where the strengths, skills, and knowledges of those in the community are validated and legitimised) and transformational. Community engagement necessarily transforms the way an institution enacts its core missions of knowledge creation and dissemination by requiring institutions to rethink how research and scholarly activity can be done with community collaborators and rethinking how teaching and learning happens with community collaborators. Community engagement assists higher education institutions in fulfilling their civic purpose through socially useful knowledge creation and dissemination, and through the cultivation of democratic values, skills, and habits – democratic practice.

The Classification process, therefore, requires evidencing of reciprocity, mutual benefit, co-creation of knowledge, and a deep commitment to community partnership. Our Community of Practice builds knowledge and capacity in support of engaged partnerships