Sustaining community-university partnerships

Simon Northmore
Angie Hart


In recent years there has been a huge growth in the academic literature on community-university partnership working. However, much of this is practice based and the issue of how such partnerships can be sustained over time is not adequately reflected in the literature. This introductory chapter lays the foundations for the subsequent thirteen articles by first discussing notions of sustainability, in part by providing a brief overview of the Community University Partnership Programme (Cupp) at the University of Brighton, UK. After a period of rapid growth, we are increasingly concerned with how to sustain the reciprocal relationships that underpin long-term engagement, a situation exacerbated by potential looming funding cuts. Paradoxically, however, this article suggests that while funding is an important element of sustainability, the current economic challenges may help to generate sustainability as community-university partnerships are forced to examine what other factors contribute to lasting relationships. It is these ‘other factors’ that the articles in this collection fruitfully explore. Coming from the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, they examine the core research question that concerns us: how do we address the challenges of building sustainable community-university partnerships, especially with disadvantaged and excluded communities, at a time of diminishing resources? Despite the wide range of community needs and methodological diversity involved, the articles suggest that some common characteristics underpin sustainability. These include: genuine reciprocity; mutual learning; and a creative approach to partnership building that recognises the diverse purposes of partners. This introductory chapter concludes that there is a need to further refine our understanding of community-university partnerships through the development of more theoretical models of sustainability.

Keywords: sustainability, partnerships, reciprocal relationships, mutual learning

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