Why is community-based research and practice so hard?

Professors, we need you!

A divide is growing between university professors and the rest of the world. On one hand, anti-intellectualism is becoming mainstream in that public figures and policy make it increasingly difficult for research to be accepted by the masses. On the other hand, university professors alienate themselves by failing to disseminate their research further than the pages of academic journals and having little interest in community engagement.

What hope do professors have if community engagement means so little?

It’s hard to bridge that divide however, when community engagement fails to operate within the “soft money” model that many schools of public health have adopted. Under these models, the majority of professors’ salaries are funded through grants. Public intellectuals have a hard time finding a place within universities due to the current focus in academia being on the bottom line and not community growth.

Cheap labour. Vulnerable labour. Good business practices.

Over the last few decades, universities have adopted a Wal-Mart business model of hiring in that by not guaranteeing employment, they insure that contract instructors accept lower salaries for more amounts of work. This makes it increasingly difficult for community-based research to gain traction in a system that is reluctant to change. While it should be noted that the tenure process has been slowly changing by placing more emphasis on community engagement, an emphasis on how to engage in community-based research in all stages of academia needs to be put placed. A growing number of knowledge mobilizing tools are now available that can help bridge this growing divide and educate the public.

There’s hope: let’s bring pedagogy into practice.

Drawing on lessons learned from University of Victoria’s hugely successful community-based leadership initiatives, the following book draws upon a host of dialogues, debates, reflections and ideas on issues related to the learning, teaching, and practice of community-based research. Not only does this book explore the practice of community-based research, but it delves into the obstacles and opportunities that may present themselves along the way.

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