The tree of community knowledge and engagement

Main Article Content

Morgan K Gardner
Kate Scarth


Deep-seated educational discourses have blamed low-income communities for their youth’s lack of high school completion. These deficit discourses reflect top–down knowledge hierarchies and a lack of knowledge democracy in education (de Sousa Santos 2007; Hall & Tandon 2017; Visvanathan 2009), and they are in need of critical and diverse knowledge reckoning by low-income communities themselves. This article relays how a community-university participatory action research (PAR) partnership became a dynamic site of knowledge democracy from which to counter and transform deficit-based knowledge systems imposed on economically disadvantaged communities. Steeped in the generative enactments of PAR, storytelling, ecological metaphor, strength-based approaches and the arts, this article explores a low-income/social housing community’s knowledge practices that are energising and growing its community power to support the success of their youth in school. These seven knowledge practices are narrated through the ecological metaphor of trees, specifically via a co-constructed PAR team narrative called the Tree of Community Knowledge and Engagement.

In the telling and retelling of this counternarrative-in-the-making, this article embodies knowledge democracy. Here, community members’ energising knowledge practices are recognised as invaluable forms of everyday educational knowing and leadership for their youth. This article further explores three broad ways of knowing that reside within and across community members’ seven knowledge practices: lived knowing, interconnected knowing and participatory/power-in-relation knowing. The three community ways of knowing illustrate how the community is growing its power to support youth’s success via a transformative educational worldview, from which other schools and universities could learn and, indeed, thrive.

Article Details

Knowledge democracy for a transforming world
Author Biographies

Morgan K Gardner

Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland

Kate Scarth

Assistant Professor, Applied Communication, Leadership, and Culture (ACLC), University of Prince Edward Island