Developing Evaluable Principles for Community-University Partnerships at Simon Fraser University




Nelson, Rachel

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As post-secondary institutions across the globe have identified community engagement as a central component of their visions and missions, the interest in measurement and evaluation in this area has increased over the past few decades (Tremblay, 2017). Yet the complex, distributed, dynamic and ever-changing nature of community-university engagement poses a number of evaluation challenges. The purpose of this project is to explore a method of evaluation called Principles-Focused Evaluation (Patton, 2018) as a possible evaluation match for the complexity of community-university engagement. Principles-Focused Evaluation (PFE) uses principles as the core evaluand as opposed to specific projects, programs, or initiatives as the focus of evaluation. Principles, when clearly and meaningfully articulated, welcome complexity and provide direction to guide action and behaviour towards desired results within a variety of contexts, without prescribing specific activities or models for what should be done and how. The objective of this research project was to identify and articulate a set of effectiveness principles for community-university partnerships at SFU that reflect both university and community interests. Looking to the future, eventually a principles focused evaluation would answer the question of how and to what extent the process of engaging in community-university partnerships in a principled way is contributing towards the desired results of community-university engagement at the institutional level. The project followed a principles-focused evaluation methodology, and the methods included key informant interviews with SFU faculty, staff and community partners, and a focus group with students. The discussion and analysis of the findings revealed a set of five overarching principles around the themes of Relationship, Context, Respect, Flexibility and Communication. Twenty-one operating principles were also identified which provide practice-based grounding to enhance the meaning of the overarching principles. It is recommended moving forward that the principles be assessed for meaningfulness, adherence and results by including a broad representation of community-university partnership cases that represent different types of collaborations and initiatives in order to get a sense of the relevance and effectiveness of the principles across a variety of contexts.



Community-University Partnerships, Community-University Engagement, Principles for Community-University Partnerships, Community-University Engagement Evaluation, Principles-Focused Evaluation