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Some Key Challenges To Community Engagement

It is not that difficult to create relationships between people from universities and people from community organizations. Many “campus-community partnerships” get created to achieve short-term, limited objectives. For example, students do a service or research project for an organization where they were already volunteering; university staff or faculty arrange for students from a class to do a community project during one school term; or a business school professor does pro bono consulting for a new social enterprise that needs help getting started. But it can be difficult to sustain campus-community relationships over the long term, to build relationships where the collaborative work accomplishes goals that are central to the interests of everyone involved.

The primary challenges to such long-term, strategic collaborations can be categorized as follows:
1. Cultural differences between the academy and the community
2. Power dynamics
3. Lack of incentives for those involved
4. Operational factors (e.g., lack of time and money).

Quite a bit has been said already in the community-university engagement discourse about these challenges, but I want to offer a few thoughts.