Implementing a university paradigm for effective community engagement

Year: 2007

Author: Howard, Peter, Gervasoni, Ann, Butcher, Jude

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Community engagement is emerging as a core function of Australian universities and their faculties. The collaboration and development of effective and sustainable partnerships can strengthen the role of the university within the community and influence those who formulate policy. This paper reports on the development and implementation of key principles and processes that are foundational to community engagement: relationship formation; sustainability; forming mutually beneficial goals; mentoring; social justice frameworks; communication; awareness-raising; identifying social injustice issues and inequalities that need to be investigated and addressed; and supportive university structures. These principles and processes are illuminated through two key community engagement projects involving the Faculty of Education. The first is the development of a teacher education program in Bachau, East Timor, and the second is a community based tertiary education program, Clemente-Catalyst, for the poor and marginalised within Australia's society. Through these programs, Australian Catholic University has evolved an understanding of the critical relevance of community engagement in making a difference in peoples' lives. Further, the programs have provided additional insights into the organisational structures required for effective community engagement. These include recognition of the time involved in forming, developing and maintaining relationships, and negotiating and implementing community engagement activities.