Engaged scholars at UAlberta: Community-Based Research & Learning Symposium celebrates interdisciplinary partnerships

The Faculty of Extension pursues opportunities to build community-university partnerships that integrate community-engaged learning (teaching), discovery (research), and citizenship (service). A recent Community-Based Research & Learning Symposium held at the University of Alberta provided an ideal opportunity to demonstrate Extension’s legacy and leadership in the study and practice of community engagement.

The Faculty’s Centre for Public Involvement (CPI) partnered with Community Service-Learning for their inaugural symposium on community-based research (CBR). The two-day symposium featured Budd Hall and Rajesh Tandon, UNESCO co-chairs of CBR and social responsibility in higher education, with Faculty of Extension guest speakers Patricia Makokis (Indigenous engagement research scholar), Yoshitaka Iwasaki (associate dean of research), and Zane Hamm (research and programs Coordinator, CPI). Participants from more than 20 community partner organizations came together with faculty and students from across 20 different university departments and research centres for the symposium workshops.

“The timing is ideal,” says Katy Campbell, dean of the Faculty of Extension. “For over a century, Extension has been at the forefront of bridging academic inquiry and community engagement, and we are thrilled to be a part of the university’s growing emphasis on advancing social justice through engaged scholarship.”

As executive director of Community Service-Learning David Peacock explains, “this symposium and our partnership with the Faculty of Extension and Centre for Public Involvement responds to a need identified by community partners to further explore community-engaged research and learning opportunities. We wanted to create a knowledge exchange amongst UNESCO scholars and local experts. CSL, the Faculty of Extension, and the CPI are well placed to facilitate discussions on pedagogy and research partnerships in which community members are equal participants.”

Learning citizenship in everyday life

“How do we learn the foundations of citizenship?” asked Rajesh Tandon, kicking off the symposium with a foundation and framework for thinking about citizenship and democracy. Founder of Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) and an international leader in participatory research and development, Tandon called for building organizations and capacities of the marginalized through their knowledge, learning, and empowerment, and invited symposium participants to share understandings of citizenship across global and local contexts.

Yoshitaka Iwasaki highlighted youth engagement and community-based research as examples of local democracy in action. Dr. Iwasaki responded to Dr. Tandon’s challenge with a discussion of the implications of community-based research for community practice and policy. His work, conducted in partnership with community organizations and Edmonton youth, exemplifies the local community-based, participatory focus of Extension research and social action.

Zane Hamm from the CPI collaborated with CSL and Dr. Tandon to design and host one of the symposium’s community sessions. She shared critical insights for community-engaged scholarship, with possibilities and challenges for universities and community organizations. Zane described a forthcoming collaborative research project that will use community mapping to explore where and how democracy and citizenship learning happens “on the ground” in Edmonton. This work will open an "ongoing dialogue with local citizens about what we know, what is happening right here, on the ground, in Edmonton. The lessons we learn will inform participatory democracy and engagement practice in both local and global contexts.”

The Faculty of Extension is strengthening the network and capacity for engaged scholarship with and within communities, mobilizing research that supports community participation and action. Collaboration with Community Service-Learning offers an opportunity to create local connections with broad impact, and CPI is excited to take action and see these possibilities growing in Edmonton. “It’s at the core of our mandate to advance both the scholarship and practice of public engagement,” says Zane. “This work is about strengthening engagement in Edmonton through community-based research and practice — with structures to support a true culture of engagement.”

Zane Hamm and Rajesh Tandon speak at the symposium

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Posted on April 22, 2016 | Categorized in Events and News.