Who organises the community? The university as an intermediary actor

Oliver Fehren


For more than 25 years the Institut für Stadtteilentwicklung, Sozialraumorientierte Arbeit und Beratung (ISSAB) (‘Institute for community development, social space orientation and counselling’) of the University Duisburg-Essen, Germany, has been engaged in the development of disadvantaged urban communities. Increasingly, however, there is a need for intermediaries to bridge the gap between the community and the municipality because of the polarisation of the complex institutional world on the one hand and the increasing fragmentation of the life-world on the other. Based on a long-term cooperation contract with the municipality of Essen, this university institute plays a continuing and active role in local neighbourhood renewal projects. The article reflects on the prospects, challenges and ambivalences of the specific task of the university institute within these community development processes: to take on a mediating role – a moderating intermediary function – between the everyday life-world of the community and the political and administrative municipal system in order to support and enhance community development.

Key words: Community development, university-community partnership, intermediary function, integrated approach, civic engagement

Full Text: