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This article reflects on the challenges and opportunities that have arisen in the course of evaluative research into the impact of a number of schools’ engagement programs at Macquarie University, Sydney. It maps out how the research has been conceived and then operationalised as an engaged model of research that includes consultations and collaborations at multiple stages of the research, from conception to dissemination. The article then considers a number of the challenges that have arisen and, in the context of current understanding of best practice in community-engaged research, discusses some of the strategies that were deployed in response to these challenges. By critically examining the limitations of these responses, the article ultimately reinforces the argument that the complexities of engaged research mean that the perfectly engaged research project remains, in most cases, an impossible myth. Instead, community-engaged research should be seen as an approach to research, or an attitude to embed into practice, which ultimately requires embracing a ‘can always do better’ approach to conducting research and a commitment to collaboration and democratic practice that goes beyond the immediate context of the research project.
Keywords: Evaluative research, evaluation, community-engaged research, collaboration
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