Sustainable Engagement? Reflections on the development of a creative community-university partnership
Gateways : International Journal of Community Research & Engagement
The current economic crisis provides an opportunity for urban universities to rethink and reshape their relationships with the communities in which they are located. Creative partnerships among universities, city agencies and community organisations have the potential to leverage the strengths of all three to: (1) identify and articulate community-defined needs and priorities; (2) systematically identify and map community resources; (3) provide students with service learning and field research
... and field research opportunities; and (4) help neighbourhoods and community organisations weather crises and emerge from them stronger. While urban universities have a long history of working with community organisations and city agencies on discrete projects, often those projects are isolated from one another. When project outcomes, lessons learned and related achievements are stored in disciplinary or community silos, a project's impact may be limited, thus forestalling shared learning. Despite the immediate learning and community outcomes of such projects, the community's collective knowledge base may not be advanced and outcomes may not be sustained. Recognising the untapped potential of the discrete community-university partnerships (CUPs) in San Francisco, San Francisco's Neighborhood Empowerment Network (NEN) and the Institute for Civic and Community Engagement (ICCE) at San Francisco State University (SF State) have been working to develop a collaborative model that involves other Bay Area institutions of higher education partnering with city agencies, nonprofit organisations, businesses and neighbourhood resident leaders. Called NEN University (NENu), this partnership is seen as the academic hub of the NEN, 'a constantly evolving collaboration of community organizations, city agencies, nonprofit organizations, and academic institutions [whose] goal is to empower neighborhoods to become cleaner, greener, healthier, and more inclusive places to live and work' (NEN ndc). As such, NENu is a unique collaboration which will serve to bring the resources of these universities to bear on community defined issues and needs (Eisman 2010b).