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Yes, you can pull scholarship from your community engagement work

Cathy-Jordan.jpgDo you work in higher ed or in collaboration with communities? In doing so, do you develop curricula, training manuals, videos, briefs or toolkits? Did you know that you can simultaneously increase the impact of these products on communities and make them count as legitimate scholarship?

We tend not to think of the youth programs, professional trainings and educational materials we develop as "scholarship". When we want to let others know about how we developed the product, its qualities and its impact, we write a journal article. We think about this as a separate process called scholarship. But there need not be a dichotomy.

Here are four keys to enhancing the impact of your work, both for communities and to advance your career in higher education:
  1. Tap community knowledge - when youth or youth development professionals who would benefit from your work are involved in conceptualizing and creating it, the result is a product that effectively meets their needs and that they can get excited about.
  2. Make your work scholarly and "pull" scholarship from it - ground it in the literature, evaluate it to inform continuous improvement, and document its impact on participants. This makes for a more effective program for youth and will form the basis of a scholarly product.
  3. Publish that journal article! Write about a unique aspect of the collaboration, community-youth-engagement.jpgan innovative programmatic feature, program outcomes, long-term impacts on youth, etc. This will improve the work of others in the field and will contribute to your career advancement.
  4. Publish the product itself. Journal articles are not the only form of scholarship. Peer review and broad dissemination are the cornerstone of scholarship and can be applied to your programs, educational materials, trainings and resources as well as journal manuscripts. Peer review can improve your product, and broad dissemination will expand its impact on stakeholders.
For the last several years I have been working on the issues of community impact and scholarship, and have participated in developing a forum to make it possible, CES4Health. Launched in 2009, it is offers a way to publish your curriculum, training, manual, toolkit or other resource. It offers peer review and broad dissemination of products of community-engaged scholarship (CES) that are in forms other than journal articles.
On CES4Health, academic and community peer reviewers critique submitted products and accompanying applications that document the scholarly approach, rigor, significance and quality of community engagement. Products accepted for publication can be accessed for free or minimal charge. Authors receive evaluation data, including web hits to the product description, number of product downloads and user feedback on product quality and impact. Youth related products span a range, including refugee youths' stories and stress reduction in schools for youth.
How do you broaden your impact on communities? Do you already "pull" scholarship from your community engagement? Would CES4Health be useful to you?

-- Cathy Jordan, director and associate professor
University of Minnesota Extension's Children, Youth, and Family Consortium

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  1. Can you give us some examples from CES4Health, that showcase how scholarship was drawn from successful partnerships with community?

  2. I really like the blog and find it an effective way to promote your work, encourage others in promoting theirs and give visibility to CES4Health as a way to do this. Great photo too since we've never met in person. Thanks for sharing.

  3. CES4Health offers a rich compendium of resources that others doing community and/or community/academic partnership work will find valuable. CES4Health isn't only an avenue for getting our own work recognized; it is also a remarkable resource for all of us. Thank you!

  4. Michael – thanks for the question. I’d be happy to give some examples. There are many more available at A team of researchers from McGill University and a team of educators from the Riverside School Board (RSB) in Quebec, Canada collaboratively developed the “Sleep for Success”, an evidence-based program to improve the sleep habits of youth. A teacher and her students then produced a video called “Sleep Squad” in which a team of super heroes (“Sleep Squad”) struggle to live up to their potential while dealing with a lack of sleep. In a creative and fun way, the film highlights the importance of sleep and shows viewers the different lifestyle habits that can have a negative impact on healthy sleep hygiene.
    Faculty from University of Arizona School of Public Health partnered with Campesinos Sin Fronteras to develop Promotora Community Health Manual: Developing a Community-Based Diabetes Self Management Program. This manual, a result of their community program development work provides a conceptual framework for designing or refining a program of community support for diabetes self-management

  5. Thanks Suzanne and Janice for your encouraging words. Do you, or others, have ideas about how to encourage people to either submit products to CES4Health or to visit CES4Health to explore products they may be interested in?

  6. This is a fantastic resource - thank you for your leadership of CES4Health. As a community-engaged researcher, I think we have an obligation to share our processes/methods and findings as widely as possible and in particular with communities who can apply these in their contexts. By the way, I downloaded the Photovoice facilitator's manual which is a terrific guide that plan to use in our next Photovoice project. Am also following @CES4Health on twitter! Keep up the great work!

  7. Thanks Sandy. I'm glad you found a helpful resource on CES4Health. It sounds like you might be the kind of researcher that might produce the type of innovative products or dissemination strategies that CES4Health is focused on. What kinds of products do you produce for community audiences? Do you think about these products as "scholarly"?
    Can you think of ways that CES4Health could be even more helpful to you as a community-engaged researcher or the communities you work with?

  8. Excellent resource to know about Cathy--thanks so much. Does youth or youth development cut across the categories?
    Are there works that are turned down for admission to the resource collection, i.e., is the assumption that everything that is available is of high quality at least by those peers who reviewed it?
    I love that it is about community-engaged research too.
    To me scholarly and scholarship connote slightly different things, the latter often thought of as a job-related measure of output and the former perhaps more about the process one uses to garner the information, though this is just top of mind. Thanks for the post Cathy!

  9. Beki - The topics that CES4Health is interested in are quite broad. So youth and youth development would fit and would cut across the other categories, if I'm understanding your question.
    Yes, there are works that are rejected, just like with a peer reviewed journal. Sometimes I, as editor, make that decision rather than sending a product out for review because I think it is inappropriate and fails to meet our criteria in some major ways. Other times, its the consensus of our reviewers that a product should not be published. We rarely accept a product without revision and resubmission. The criteria for peer review and an explanation of the peer review process are available at under the Submit Products link.
    Given that products have been reviewed by two academic and two community reviewers using a set of standard criteria, the assumption is that the products available were deemed useful and of high quality at least by those who peer reviewed them and by me.
    And thanks for pointing out the difference between scholarly and scholarship. I completely agree. I believe you can do your work in a scholarly way (your approach is grounded in knowledge of what came before you, you are filling a gap based on that knowledge, you are using an iterative approach to improve your work, etc), but never produce scholarship until you document something and produce a product based on that that can be broadly disseminated and critiqued.
    Do you agree? In your work is it the scholarly approach or the scholarship product that is most valued?

  10. Our team is considering submitting a product to CES4Health, realistically over the summer. We are planning to submit a manuscript first so we can use text from that to include in the application. Our work focuses on youth led CBPR around sexual health and we have both tools (survey instruments, youth peer educator curriculum) and the actual survey findings themselves. Thanks for your encouragement!

  11. Sandy - I'm really looking forward to seeing your submission over the summer. CES4Health does have some technical assistance available to help folks ready their product and accompanying application for submission. Our technical assistant is Marlynn May and his email is Feel free to connect with him.

  12. Cathy thanks for sharing your thoughts and the great resource that CES4HEalth has become with your leadership. I just want to second the importance of connecting our work with community and our scholarship. The field of youth development needs to hear from those deeply engaged in various forms of practice and community engagement and those engaged in practice can benefit greatly from reading and learning about the work of others. To me scholarship is a key way to ensure others in the field can benefit for what you are learning in your work. It is a critical way to contribute to the growth, depth, and strength of our field.


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