Report based on Community First: Impacts of Community Engagement (CFICE) research, posted on Community Campus Engage Canada.
While many studies have addressed the successes and challenges of participatory action research, few have documented how community campus engagement (CCE) works and how partnerships can be designed for strong community impact. This paper responds to increasing calls for ‘community first’ approaches to CCE. Our analysis draws on experiences and research from Community First: Impacts of Community Engagement (CFICE), a collaborative action research project that ran from 2012-2020 in Canada and aimed to better understand how community-campus partnerships might be designed and implemented to maximize the value for community-based organizations. As five of the project’s co-leads, we reflect on our experiences, drawing on research and practice in three of CFICE’s thematic hubs (food sovereignty, poverty reduction, and community environmental sustainability) to identify achievements and articulate preliminary lessons about how to build stronger and more meaningful relationships. We identify the need to: strive towards equitable and mutually beneficial partnerships; work with boundary spanners from both the academy and civil society to facilitate such relationships; be transparent and self-reflexive about power differentials; and look continuously for ways to mitigate inequities.