Community engagement in action: We are to do good to our communities

Joy Penman, Jyothi Thalluri

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review


Community engagement is defined as an involvement, interaction, and collaboration between groups of people for a specific purpose. Specifically relating to universities, it refers to the role the university plays within the community it serves. Universities have clearly addressed their teaching and research agenda, but community engagement has not received as much attention by comparison. It takes many forms and encompasses a broad range of undertakings. The potential benefits of engaging with communities include bridging the gap between “town and gown”, breaking down barriers, meeting
needs, building resilient relationships, empowering individuals, and strengthening communities. This study examined the concept of community engagement and how this was implemented by academics from a South Australian university. Following the university’s positional statement of
educating individuals, producing and publishing knowledge, and engaging with communities, the authors paused and reflected on how community engagement was achieved at the staff level, what were the benefits and who were benefited, and the lessons learnt in the engagement process. Five examples of community engagement activities undertaken were highlighted. First was the “Preparatory science workshop” to inform the community how to approach the study of sciences to ensure successful transition to university. Second was “Improving palliative care access and education”, and third was the “University experience program” to encourage university participation amongst regional students. The fourth example was a project titled “Mental health comes alive” where academics collaborated with mental health clinicians in teaching a mental health course. The final example was the “Health information sessions”, which were public information sessions conducted regularly to help empower community members to make decisions about their health. Each of these activities was evaluated using post-intervention surveys. Critical reflection was used to analyse the evaluations that revealed the benefits derived from university–community engagement from the viewpoint of community members, students, staff and the university as a whole. Most important was the production of research outputs that could improve the well-being and prosperity of communities. It was found also that positive outcomes were achieved when engagement was participatory, and when goals and objectives were clear. Commitment and collaboration were equally important, as well as being guided by the principles of service, transparency, trust, and respect.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of EDULEARN17 Conference
EditorsL Gomez Chova, A Lopez Marinez, I Candel Torres
PublisherIATED Academy
Number of pages9
ISBN (Print)9788469737774
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes
EventAnnual International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies 2017 - Barcelona, Spain
Duration: 3 Jul 20175 Jul 2017
Conference number: 9th


ConferenceAnnual International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies 2017
Abbreviated titleEDULEARN 2017
Internet address


  • Community engagement
  • higher education
  • university
  • project evaluation
  • critical reflection

Cite this

Penman, J., & Thalluri, J. (2017). Community engagement in action: We are to do good to our communities. In L. Gomez Chova, A. Lopez Marinez, & I. Candel Torres (Eds.), Proceedings of EDULEARN17 Conference (pp. 6294-6302). IATED Academy.