In June 2016, McMaster’s Community Engagement Strategy was launched to set the direction for the next 5 years of community engagement at McMaster. The vision of this strategy is working together for an inclusive, sustainable greater Hamilton. McMaster’s Office of Community Engagement was formed to support the pursuit of McMaster’s Community Engagement Strategy.
Action-oriented principles of community engagement were co-developed between community and campus partners to provide a framework for how to work together. The principles include: relationships, reciprocity, equity, continuity, openness to learning, and commitment to act.
The primary goal of McMaster’s Community Engagement Strategy is to establish these principles as the foundation of community-campus partnerships.
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McMaster is a proactive, responsive, and collaborative partner in our community. We connect people, ideas, and communities.
Every person can access, contribute to, and potentially benefit from our work together, irrespective of discipline, gender, ethnicity, age, or ability.
Healthy social, environmental, and economic systems support thriving communities. Recognizing and valuing both the interconnectedness and limits of these systems, short-term actions and long-term planning decisions are made with the health and prosperity of both present and future generations in mind.
We are embedded in and connected to multiple communities in and around the city of Hamilton. We also recognize that we are connected to and working with many communities outside of Hamilton’s geographical and political boundaries.
McMaster University is a committed member of the greater Hamilton community and broader society and recognizes that true excellence can only be achieved when we are working together with our community partners.
We are mindful of the interconnectedness of our globalized world. We value community and public engagement that is mutually beneficial, supports our academic, research, service and civic outreach missions, and collaboratively leads to meaningful outcomes and sustained actions and relationships.
Regardless of the discipline, graduates of McMaster will be citizens engaged in multiple communities in multiple ways but we recognize that our relationships within the community we call home are paramount to supporting the vitality and well-being of the greater Hamilton area.
Multiple overlapping strategies will be required in order to integrate community engagement into the mission and vision of the University. The following principles aim to guide this integration into all Faculties and administrative areas.
Community engagement will be aligned with all facets of the mission of McMaster University.
The University will value collaborative endeavours such as research, teaching, service and advocacy activities with community stakeholders.
McMaster University will value working with the community for mutual benefit, build relationships based on reciprocity, trust and respect, and recognize global interconnectedness.
The University will respect that there are multiple definitions of “community” and that different disciplines/communities will experience, value and learn about CE differently.
The University will support, recognize and reward community engagement among faculty, staff, students, alumni and retirees.
During the Network for Community-Campus Partnership’s strategic planning process over 2015-2016, community and campus partners strongly recommended that a co-developed set of action-oriented principles serve as the foundation of our work together. Informed by our consultations, the principles below will guide our work in initiating, sustaining, monitoring, and evaluating community-campus partnerships. These principles are meant to be broadly applicable for any partnership, from local to global, and can be applied across all Faculties, disciplines, and sectors.
Our Foundational Principle: Relationships Build Community
We can’t have community without relationships—these are the connections that build community. Any successful partnership must be built on trusting and respectful relationships guided by integrity. We realize that relationships take time to develop and thus we commit to providing opportunities to connect people across communities, sectors, and disciplines to foster a genuine and interconnected network of colleagues to work together for an inclusive, sustainable Greater Hamilton Area. The following principles are central to our work:
From design, to participation, to the outcomes of a project, we strive to work together for mutual benefit.
We are conscious of the historical and structural inequities that exist in society and strive to provide access and opportunities to all residents and members of our communities.
Acknowledging that different communities work on different timelines and schedules, we strive to consider both the short and long-term implications of our work together.
Openness to Learning
Change takes time. We are committed to continually learn from and evaluate our work together, reflecting on and sharing both our successes and failures to grow as individuals, partnerships, and communities.
Commitment to Act
We aspire to make a positive difference in our community by sharing and acting on our knowledge to contribute to the greater social good.
A variety of approaches are needed to support community partners as well as McMaster students, faculty, and staff who are interested in developing skills and competencies for principled, sustainable, and reciprocal partnerships. It is also crucial to develop sufficient structures and policies for recognition which will ensure that we are supporting, acknowledging, and encouraging those who pursue community-engaged education or research partnerships.
A major barrier to any partnership development is that people (both partners and colleagues at McMaster) do not know where to go, who to talk to, or what resources exist to support partnership building. There is a need to improve access to (and awareness about) both physical spaces (on and off campus) and virtual spaces that can help partners use these pathways to navigate community-campus partnerships.
This pillar will focus on improving awareness of the work of community-engaged individuals, research and education outcomes, available resources, and upcoming opportunities and events. Communicating in plain language, being clear about steps that partners can take to engage, developing visual pathways for engagement, maintaining the community engagement database, and raising the profile of community liaisons across the University can improve partnership opportunities and outcomes.
Organized in partnership with community and campus partners, face-to-face meetings on specific themes or topics will support relationship building and ongoing relationships that can lead to potential partnership opportunities. Tying funding opportunities to specific topics can encourage ideas to move towards projects, while sharing outcomes of conversations or the conversations themselves (e.g. in an online repository) can encourage others to connect to ideas while also informing actions going forward.
Goal 1 - Establish Principles
- Uphold both the institutional and action-oriented principles in all of our work, partnerships, and resources.
- Embed the principles into undergraduate and graduate curriculum where it relates to community engagement.
- Share principles across disciplines and communities to ensure that all community and University partners are aware of and can consider how to apply these principles in their partnerships.
- Incorporate principles into the research ethics process as appropriate.
- Encourage the adoption of principles within the University’s formal and informal policies and frameworks.
- Recognize and reward work done by faculty, staff, students, and community partners that aligns with the principles.
Goal 2 - Build Bridges
- Improve access, navigation, and openness
- To McMaster’s main campus, including the use of available spaces on campus by community members and partners.
- To McMaster’s virtual spaces.
- Between people, places, and spaces.
- Develop a clear protocol for community engagement of which both community and University partners are aware.
- Support regular opportunities for community-campus connections such as events that are hosted both on McMaster’s main campus and at satellite campuses, as well as events hosted in community settings.
- Explore emerging opportunities that support community-campus connections.
- Encourage consistent use of plain language in communicating with campus and community partners.
Goal 3 - Align & Partner
- Aspire to respond to community-driven issues and requests through collaborative approaches that align with the University’s areas of strength in research, education, and service.
- Align funding opportunities and distribution strategies with partnership development and collaborations.
- Develop a rapid response mechanism to respond to short-term community requests.
- Negotiate curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular activities with community partner priorities and projects.
- Increase McMaster’s presence as an active, collaborative, and supportive partner within the community.
- Encourage McMaster faculty members to proactively engage with communities beyond the campus as public intellectuals by contributing their expertise and knowledge to public dialogues and action plans.
Goal 4 - Assess & Learn
- Involve the Network for Community-Campus Partnerships in ongoing evaluation and reflection on partnerships and collaborative projects to support continued learning.
- Create an evaluation structure that considers outputs that are valued by different communities (e.g. academic publications, community action plans, strategic plans).
- Communicate about our impact and outcomes of McMaster’s community engagement initiatives:
- Across all areas of the University
- Across the greater Hamilton community
- Nationally and globally
- Recognize, celebrate, and reward the success of community-campus partnerships.