Community Engagement Defined

UC's Official Definition of Community Engagement:
Deliberate collaboration that is co-designed and leads to mutually beneficial, sustained impact.

We are deeply committed to building authentic relationships between the university and communities across Greater Cincinnati and beyond. Our engagement is grounded in responsibility as an education and innovation leader utilizing these relationships and our resources to advance social progress projects, informed by community expertise. Through these investments, University of Cincinnati (UC) students, faculty, staff, and alumni become active community members and civic-minded change agents, while the communities we collaborate with gain access to the University’s workforce, technology, research, and funds.

Prior to the 2024 Elective Classification for Community Engagement offered through the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the American Council on Education, no University-wide definition of community engagement had been adopted, despite years of collaboration between the University and various communities. Programs and colleges operated under their own definitions, as appropriate to the type of work in which they engaged. A working group of staff and faculty formed in Fall 2022 to create a definition of community engagement, as an early step in pursuing the Carnegie Community Engagement Elective Classification. The group developed a draft definition informed by a variety of practitioner perspectives on community engagement including staff who work with community partners, faculty who use community-engaged pedagogies, and researchers who perform and support community engaged research. The committee crafted a definition with core standards and values of engagement at the center.

The definition was presented to the Council of Deans and the President's Cabinet. Feedback from college Deans and President's Cabinet members was integrated into an updated definition draft. The definition was shared through various channels at the university. Although this definition is new, it will help pull stakeholders into the wider conversation on community engagement, help folks identify work they are already doing as community- engaged professionals, and will help discern institutional priorities and accomplishments.

As this newly developed definition of community engagement takes hold, it will provide a valuable anchor point to pull members of our university community toward the core standards and values that define community engagement, while encouraging others to push even further toward best practices for an engaged university.

Regardless of modality, community served, or social issue addressed, UC community engagement participants strive for these values in their work:

  • Community Voice: Engagement defined by mutual problem solving and informed by community experience
  • Measurable Impact: Engagement is tracked and assessed for impact through evaluation and analysis.
  • Innovation: Engagement makes use of UC’s scholarship, research, personnel, and network to develop transformational approaches to complex issues.
  • Inclusion: Engagement creates for UC and partner communities a sense of belonging and shared community identity, characterized by leadership, civic duty, and empowerment.
  • Relational: Engagement is designed to produce long-lasting relationships that sustain long-term impact and change.