Empyrean Research’s Interview with the UNESCO Chair for Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education, Part 2
Greetings from Mumbai.
I am here with students from Northeastern University’s Social Enterprise Institute on the final days of their program in India. Over the past few weeks, despite a record-setting heatwave, we have experienced excellent learning opportunities with organizations such as the Barefoot College in Rajasthan and the Civic Response Team in Aurangabad. (More on the Barefoot visit in a future post and video.)
This week my teaching colleagues and I have been supporting several exciting student action research/consulting projects with four organizations based here in the 20+ million metropolis of Mumbai, including the Dharavi Project/ACORN India, Yuva Parivartan, Vandana Foundation and Sammrudhi.
This blogpost is the second in a two-part series based on a recent interview with Budd Hall and Rajesh Tandon, who together serve as the UNESCO Chair for Community Based Research (CBR) and Social Responsibility in Higher Education. In the previous excerpt from the video, Tandon and Hall discussed the history and goals of the CBR Chair.
In this short segment from that same interview, Hall discusses two recent publications which the CBR Chair completed in conjunction with a wider team of colleagues from around the world.
The first book, Strengthening Community University Research Partnerships (CURPs), had its genesis in a global survey of community based research activities involving university and civil society respondents from 60 countries, to assess the level and nature of community based research activities around the globe. The full survey findings can be found here. Working similarly in this global vein, the book, edited by Hall, Tandon and University of Victoria researcher Crystal Tremblay, offers in depth descriptions of CURP activities in 12 different national contexts including: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Jordan, the Netherlands, South Africa, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Like the CBR Chair itself, the book includes both university and the civil society perspectives on CURP activities. As such the analysis offered is not exclusively derived from or offered to universities, but also includes insights and examples from the dynamic CBR space which exists beyond the walls of academia. The 12 national level studies are framed by a collection of analytical chapters, including one with a focus on institutionalizing community university research partnerships written by myself, Johanna Haffenden and Budd Hall. The concluding chapters highlight the strengths and the gaps discerned through analysis of the volume's various cases. While the global survey and the cases in the book demonstrate that community engagement is by no means the exclusive purview of universities in the global north, and that innovative research collaborations are happening on all of the populated continents, the deeper analysis points toward an ad hoc approach which underlies these activities.
Analysis by Tandon and Wafa Singh point toward a lack of intentional training and capacity building for CURP activities within universities, particularly in relation to participatory methods, and an absence of university investment in building the research capacity of the civil society sector in their respective countries. Shared governance and financial management of research funds was also found to be a rarity, with universities still holding most power in CURP activities. While the majority of respondents in the global survey cited the ‘co-generation of knowledge’ as an essential element of CURPs, only 15% of participating institutions reported having mechanisms which enable inquires to emerge from the side of community.
The gaps and challenges highlighted in the first book are taken up in a series of recommendations and best practices outlined in a second companion book, Institutionalizing Community University Research Partnerships: A User’s Manual. As Hall notes in the video clip above, this book targets primarily university leaders and staff who are interested in strengthening their institution’s capacities to carry out CURP activities in an equitable and collaborative manner. Like any product user manual, the structure of the book is simple to navigate and the chapters are brief. Basic issues such as policy, institutionalization, governance, capacity building, funding and research dissemination are all discussed. Specific examples of good practices are drawn from the cases in the companion book and offered in block quotes at the end of each chapter. These examples help to address the challenges raised in the first book regarding the setting of the research agenda, shared governance and explicit methodological processes for the co-generation of knowledge.
Both those well-versed in CBR and those new to the practice will find value in these texts and the numerous institutional examples drawn from the 12 national studies. Both books have been published as open access, Creative Commons resources and so are free for download in their entirety. Additional resources related to community based research generated by the UNESCO CBR Chair are available for download here.
Felix is the founder and director of Empyrean Research. Based in Tennessee, he travels widely with his work for Empyrean.
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