Building Community University Engagement: A Program Theory Approach

Delaforce, Wayne H. (2004) Building Community University Engagement: A Program Theory Approach. In Social Change in the 21st Century Conference, 29th October, QUT, Brisbane.


The Queensland University of Technology (QUT), like other Australian Universities, is seeking to advance collaboration across external boundaries through "community engagement" in response to policies at National and State levels that invoke rationales such as resource efficiency and coherence in regional educational delivery. As a result, an alliance of regional education sector providers including QUT established the Northern Corridor Education Precinct (NCEP) in 2001. The alliance recognised that no individual provider, organisation or community can fully deliver a complete learning experience in isolation. In an environment of changing education landscape the NCEP has reaffirmed that it exists to develop and provide cross-sectoral leadership by introducing and maximising a co-ordinated approach to learning for our community. While these goals have been formulated as a means of operationalising regional level initiatives, QUT’s articulated organisational strategic requirement is to identify and operationalise 'best practice' standards. Meaning a clearer framework and model are needed to articulate the logic analysis processes and desired outcomes of collaboration. This is a complex task with university engagement policy articulated at three levels of governance national, state and specific university level. Thus it is necessary to examine the policy logic at each of these levels to identify the relationships assumed to be at stake in bringing about community engagement. In order to do this the paper first begin to explore the concept of program theory as a level of analysis suited to identifying the logic of policies and their implementation in programs. Secondly, the paper examines the current national and state education sector policies developing a framework of the articulated policy, as desired outcomes and mechanisms. The QUT strategic vision and logic of collaboration, QUT Blueprint 2004 is also examined from an organisational and systemic context. As a result of the examination, this paper outlines the articulated logic underpinning the three levels of policy informing community engagement strategies and identifies the relationships and the emerging articulated language and rhetoric. Thirdly, a brief examination of research around education sector engagement identifies a conceptual gap in the mechanisms and application for such initiatives. It is suggested that in the context of the development of learning regions in a knowledge economy, universities have a leadership role at the level of ideas and values and that, 'boundary spanning' is required as a means of achieving the collaborative relationships identified in policy. The paper argues that in order to undertake regional, collaborative, cross-sectoral education and community engagement a conceptual framework that identifies the processes and issues involved is needed. The proposal is raised and will be developed further in subsequent papers that 'boundary spanning' and sectoral, community interface occur at a symbolic dimension and the work of Benedict Anderson on "Imagined Communities" informs this process and allows a working framework to emerge.

This framework will reflect the work in the NCEP over the past three years as vehicles to create in the words of Donald McNeill (2001) "Spaces of Engagement" in which community engagement can occur. The paper proposes that this approach sheds new light on the processes of organisational boundary spanning that need to occur if universities are to engage with their constituent communities. This represents one way to fill the identified process gap and transcend the strategic operational divide.

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ID Code: 1747
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Community Engagement, Programme Theory, Collaboration, Higher Education Policy Framework
ISBN: 1741070813
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Social Change Research
Past > QUT Faculties & Divisions > QUT Carseldine - Humanities & Human Services
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2004 Wayne H. Delaforce
Deposited On: 28 Jun 2005 00:00
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2010 12:26

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