In democratic societies, it is increasingly argued that science-society relationships should be based on establishing and institutionalizing mutual dialogues, making public concerns not only visible but the public as equal partner. We are seeing a trend in higher education for sustainable development and a realization that efforts for sustainable development require collaboration on a regional level.
Volume 17, Issue 12, Pages 1053-1162 (August 2009) of the Journal of Cleaner Production devotes the enire issue to the roles of academia in regional sustainability initiatives. International in scope, the 11 articles make recommendations for ways in which academia may help their regions to make more rapid progress toward sustainable development via involvement of their faculty, students and staff.
A truly sustainable university functions not only as a sustainable community, embodying responsible consumption of energy, water, and food. It also supports sustainable development in its local community and region. As such its academic libraries need to embrace and make a concerted and strategic effort to have available library services and research resources that are available and accessible to their local communities.
The Journal of Cleaner Production is available full text online for UG faculty, students, and staff via the Library website
“My job is all about community engagement,” says Rob Kerr. Rob is the Community Energy Plan Manager for the City of Guelph. During our conversation in early July, he mentioned that since beginning his position at the city a few months ago, our mayor had also been quite adamant that he connect with the community as he moved the Guelph Community Energy Plan forward.
He mentioned too that while he has supported and assisted faculty and students with their research questions, it had not yet tried to drive the research based on his and city needs.
He and I discussed the principles behind CBR…. that it should take place in community and involve community members in the design and implementation of a research project. We talked about the requirement in CBR that the research must “do no harm” to the community involved.
We talked about the basic principles behind CBR (ones that I had found on a website defined by the University of Washington):
* Community partners should be involved at the earliest stages of the project, helping to define research objectives and having input into how the project will be organized.
* Community partners should have real influence on project direction–that is, enough leverage to ensure that the original goals, mission, and methods of the project are adhered to.
* Research processes and outcomes should benefit the community. Community members should be hired and trained whenever possible and appropriate, and the research should help build and enhance community assets.
* Community members should be part of the analysis and interpretation of data and should have input into how the results are distributed. This does not imply censorship of data or of publication, but rather the opportunity to make clear the community’s views about the interpretation prior to final publication.
* Productive partnerships between researchers and community members should be encouraged to last beyond the life of the project. This will make it more likely that research findings will be incorporated into ongoing community programs and therefore provide the greatest possible benefit to the community from research.
* Community members should be empowered to initiate their own research projects which address needs they identify themselves.
I’ve seen Rob since our July meeting. During a break from playing his guitar licks at a friends music jam, he chatted with me. His infectious energy and ideas for connecting with community and university players continued to spill over. He told me that he is spreading the word about my community/university/library interests to others too!
Four fundamental facts that need to be addressed in innovative ways according to Otto Scharmer:
(a) Poverty: some 40% of people worldwide survive on less than $2 a day.
(b) Underconsumption: we produce much more than we can sell.
(c) Unemployment: billions are unemployed, and dozens or hundreds of millions join that pool every year.
(d) The commons: there is an enormous amount of work to do in all of our communities and in preserving the commons, but we can’t find people to do it.
Thanks to an invite from Linda Hawkins, the director of the Initiative on Community Engaged Scholarship, I am spending the day at a special event, called “Building a Research Shop: A Community-Campus Dialogue.” Some of the topics on the full day agenda include:
1) What might be the most significant facilitators of greater community-university research partnerships in our region?
2) How could the university be more of a resource or asset to the community?
3) How can the community be more of an asset to the university?
We are all asked to come with a story about our own experiences with community university research partnerships, or another type of community university partnership. Members from the University and from the community will be in attendance.
I feel blessed that I happened upon Linda and ICES right at the start of my leave time and at the start of my community/academic library connections conversations. What timing!
I am really looking forward to the day and to the discussion.
I wonder… where does the academic library fit in to the new and exciting world of civic engagement by academia? Specifically I want to know what role (if any) should an academic library play in supporting local citizen scientists, social innovators, and researchers? And what role (if any) should an academic library play in supporting campus partners engaged in community based service learning, experiential learning, and/or transformative learning?
I begin with a conversation. I have started by approaching anyone and everyone who might be interested in sharing their thoughts with me about the important of social innovation and local community development. The response has been tremendously overwhelming. For every person I talk to I am given names of others. I feel as though a tap has burst. Everyone I speak to has ideas and is excited by my questions and to have a chance to talk about this issue. Realizing just how much I need to learn I have had to step back.
On their website, the Higher Education Network for Community Engagement (HENCE) state that community engagement ought to be a core element of higher education’s role in society. They call institutions in higher education to “deepen, consolidate, and advance the literature, research, practice, policy, and advocacy for community engagement“. HENCE’s mandate is part of a larger view that we to renew the civic mission of higher education and transform academic culture. In 2007, the OECD suggested that higher education institutions need to better engage their institutions and their staff with their local communities. Worldwide, we are seeing institutions in higher education intentionally developing and supporting active collaborative strategies that align and engage their research and teaching more closely with public purposes and the needs of their local citizens: community based scholarship, experiential learning, service learning… and so on.
I am reading up on Town/Gown relations, Library/community relations, Community Based Scholarship, Citizen Scientists, Social Innovation…I have also begun teaching myself about Theory U, and Presencing.
Soon, I hope to hear from libraries and librarians who have developed formal (or Informal) initiatives to support their community based researchers and social innovators. I am also interested in librarians who are interested in sharing their ideas about how and why academic libraries could/should be more actively involved these initiatives. Soon … but not just yet … for now I want to listen to the community tell me their stories.