Doing What we Know we Should: Engaged scholarship and community development

Main Article Content

Bruce Muirhead
Geoff Woolcock


In Australia, engaged scholarship oriented towards community development objectives has yet to be recognised in funding regimes as being inherently beneficial in terms of scholarly excellence and university rankings. While the civic role of universities is acknowledged by individual universities, higher education management and at the Federal policy level, they are most often framed as funding problems related to ‘community service’ rather than as research opportunities which can raise the university’s profile by providing the basis for excellent research outputs and community enrichment. Community engagement has become a familiar term in the Australian higher education lexicon in recent years but there is still little institutional infrastructure that directly embodies the principles and sentiment of community engagement evident in current Australian universities. In this paper, the inaugural Director and Research Manager of the University of Queensland’s Community Service and Research Centre reflect on their five years leading a Centre that was/has been privileged to enjoy significant institutional support and the lessons learnt in forging into unknown territories. The reflections focus on the Centre’s seminal project, the Goodna Service Integration Project.

Article Details

Research articles (Refereed)
Author Biographies

Bruce Muirhead, EIDOS

Bruce Muirhead is the Founding Chief Executive Officer and Professor of Eidos Institute. Prior to joining Eidos, Bruce was the founding Director of The University of Queensland's 'Boilerhouse' Research Centre. Muirhead has more than 20 years’ experience in building partnerships between public and private sector focusing on the connections between economic, public and social innovation in the development of community capacity at local and global levels. Most recently, following the murder of an elderly Ipswich resident in 1999, Professor Muirhead’s leadership role in the Goodna Service Integration Project, was acknowledged by the Australian Government as one of ten national projects, alongside the Sydney Olympics and the response to the Bali bombings, for creating large-scale collaboration to respond to Australia’s priority challenges. His awards for this work also included a UQ Teaching and Learning Award and finalist in two consecutive Australian Awards for University Teaching. He writes and travels extensively and over the past few years has been invited to speak on collaborative innovation at conferences in the USA , South Africa, Europe and UK. He sits on a number of international committees and boards including Education, Citizenship and Social Justice (SAGE), Queensland Ministerial Advisory Committee on Equity, Itel Community Telco, Infoxchange Australia, Bremer TAFE, International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility and Democracy. He is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Geoff Woolcock

Associate Professor Geoffrey Woolcock is an urban sociologist based at Griffith University and is particularly interested in both indicators of social sustainability and the factors that contribute to child- and youth-friendly communities. His work with large-scale public and private sector organisations, including large private residential developers and several Queensland and interstate government departments, concentrates on developing measures of communities' strengths alongside national and international efforts to measure well- being led by the OECD. Geoff is an experienced social researcher with considerable expertise in social and community service planning and evaluation, including social impact assessment and project evaluation. He has 16 years community-based research experience nationally and internationally, in housing, youth and health sectors, particularly HIV/AIDS prevention and education, culminating in his PhD thesis on AIDS activism completed in 2000. He is an International Editorial Board member of Journal of Research Practice, a regular reviewer for several other journals and a Visiting Fellow of the Centre for Urban Research & Learning, Loyola University, Chicago, USA. He spent 5 years (2000-2005) as the University of Queensland ‘Boilerhouse’ Community Engagement Centre’s Research Manager, leading the Centre’s program area, Social Capital and Local Communities, and building relationships with over 40 different government and corporate partners, nationally and internationally, to undertake collaborative, community-focused research projects. Prior to this work, he undertook several youth focussed research and applied projects at various locations across Australia throughout the 1990s, focussing on significant issues including homelessness, young men’s suicide prevention, HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C prevention and education, alcohol and drug use and youth needs assessments.