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Engaged Research | Community Engagement

Defining engaged research


Since most forms of research involve interaction with other parties, some form of engagement is almost always present. Research/innovation-related forms of engagement (mostly for-profit) encompass consultations, contract research/innovation, internal corporate ventures, associate/subsidiary companies and technology licensing. Not-for-profit research activities conducted in collaboration with external community partners mostly focus on addressing the broader needs in society an often barely succeed in recovering costs. (Community engagement cannot always be provided “free of charge” given that the “mutually beneficial” principle must be applied.)


Forms of engaged research

In engaged research, the inputs of the “community" are participatory in nature and must be negotiated and valued – a methodology which is supported by an array of techniques aimed at ensuring reciprocity and partnerships. New knowledge is generated collaboratively and shared widely in the public domains. This form of engaged research, sometimes also referred to as participatory action research, falls well within the ambit of community engagement and has the potential to feed back into the curriculum as well as to be linked directly to aspects of students’ training.

In some instances, engaged research could be on phenomena found within communities and is then termed community-based research. Here, too, the principle of respectful and ethical access to and inclusion of communities with feedback is essential. Even though the use of participatory methods to conduct this type of research is not a required premise, researchers nevertheless often resort to these techniques.

Before communities can be included in any type of research, access to such communities must be negotiated in line with validated ethical principles. Ethics approval must also be obtained via North-West University’s approved structures.


Working towards engaged research

Several training opportunities are offered throughout the year on the development of engaged research. For assistance in this regard, contact the Directorate Community Engagement or consult the training calendar.