Choice, power and perspective: The neglected question of who initiates engaged campus-community partnerships

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Robert W. Glover
Linda Silka


To address society’s complex challenges, campus-community partnerships are increasingly being undertaken by academia. As a result, questions of how to ensure that these partnerships succeed have taken on a new urgency. This urgency has led to an emphasis on the creation of ‘how to’ guides focused on the mechanics of building effective partnerships. This article argues that this focus is premature and attention instead needs to be directed to the neglected but ultimately more fundamental question of who is ‘allowed’ to initiate the partnerships. It is argued here that the seemingly simple and straightforward issue of who initiates the partnership leads us into the complex problems of choice, power and perspective which bedevil campus-community partnerships. Until these problems are fully addressed, the partnership approach is unlikely to achieve its status as a central means by which community-university engagement can be realised in academia.

Keywords: campus-community partnerships, community engagement, partnership initiation, research, knowledge creation, reciprocity.

Article Details

Research articles (Refereed)
Author Biographies

Robert W. Glover, University of Maine

Robert W. Glover is the CLAS-Honors Preceptor of Political Science, a joint appointment in the Honors College and the Department of Political Science at the University of Maine. His research focuses on democratic theory, community engagement, and the politics of immigration. His recent work has been featured in Political Studies, Philosophy & Social Criticism, and Diaspora: A Journal of Transnational Studies.

Linda Silka, University of Maine

Linda Silka directs UMaine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center and is a professor in the School of Economics. Prior to moving to the University of Maine, Dr. Silka was a faculty member for three decades at the University of Massachusetts Lowell where she directed the Center for Family, Work, Community and served as the Special Assistant to the UML Provost for Community Outreach and Partnerships. A social and community psychologist by training, much of her work has focused on building community-university research partnerships. Recent research partnerships she has facilitated include the NIEHS-funded Southeast Asian Environmental Justice Partnership and the New Ventures Partnership, the HUD-funded Community Outreach Partnership Center and Diverse Healthy Homes Initiative, and the Center for Immigrant and Refugee Community Leadership and Empowerment. Silka has written extensively on the challenges and opportunities of building research partnerships with diverse groups and has consulted internationally on how to build community-university research partnerships.