What is Community Engaged Scholarship?

We define the Community Engaged Scholarship (CES) as the creation and dissemination of new knowledge to address social issues through collaborative relationships and shared activity between those in the university and those outside the university that are grounded in qualities of reciprocity, mutual respect, shared authority, and co-creation.  

Knowledge, in this sense, is conceived of as transdisciplinary (transcending the disciplines and the college or university) and asset-based (where the strengths, skills, and knowledges of those in the community are validated and legitimized). 

Faculty take part in a broader range of creative intellectual work in the name of community engagement, collaborating with community partners outside the campus for the purposes of addressing community issues, improving teaching and learning, creating new and relevant knowledge, and developing civic learning opportunities associated with the public relevance of disciplines. Indeed, these scholarly activities connect the core functions of higher education – the generation and dissemination of knowledge – to the needs of the public.

Community engaged research is one important element of CES. While it falls under the broader category of public scholarship, often framed as the communication of academic knowledge with a public audience outside the campus,  CES is something more specific. Whereas public scholarship tends to be broadly defined as scholarly and creative activities that are public-facing and oriented toward problem-solving, CES is further defined by its essential grounding in relationships of shared knowledge production with those outside the university and its emphasis on qualities of reciprocity, mutual respect, shared authority, and co-creation.  Also, CES is not simply “applied research,” where knowledge is generated within the college or university and is, in a linear way, applied externally to a community. Instead, its collaborative and transdisciplinary orientation brings together academic knowledge and community-based knowledge to generate new knowledge and address social issues in communities.

As with all research, CES requires rigorous evaluation to assess quality. This includes review by knowledge experts, expanding the scope of who is considered a peer in peer-review. With CES, the peer in the peer-review processes is often reframed due to the recognition that, in certain circumstances, the expert will be a non-academic, community collaborator. CES also expands the understanding and valuing of scholarly products beyond publication in highly specialized disciplinary journals to include a range of products that have relevance to public audiences.

Finally, CES aims for impact beyond publication in specialized academic journals and the number of citations in faculty publications. Research that is community engaged aims for the advancement and utilization of knowledge with societally-relevant outcomes.

While research is an important feature of CES, it should not be considered synonymous with it. Faculty take part in a broader range of creative intellectual work in the name of community engagement, collaborating with community partners outside the campus for the purposes of addressing community issues, improving teaching and learning, creating new and relevant knowledge, and developing civic learning opportunities associated with the public relevance of disciplines. Indeed, these scholarly activities connect the core functions of higher education – the generation and dissemination of knowledge – to the needs of the public. In this sense community engagement can be clearly articulated, and should be valued and rewarded, in all areas of faculty scholarly work, including teaching, research and creative activity, and service.