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Linking impact to the UN Sustainable Development Goals – assessing 10 years of engaged-scholarship at the University of Victoria

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The increasing importance and value of civic engagement in Higher Educational Institutions (HEI) around the world has led to a strong emphasis on evaluating and measuring the impact of these activities, particularly as it relates to the mutual benefit of community and the university. Developing an impact evaluation framework therefore is currently a high priority for many HEI’s in Canada and globally. The literature points to a diversity of approaches to community university engagement, resulting in several indicator sets and frameworks for impact assessment. Few institutions however are applying frameworks such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals to capture the impact of community-engaged research. 

The Office of Community University Engagement (OCUE) at the University of Victoria has done just that – capturing the impact of 10 years of community-engaged research linked to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. The results point to a wide range and diversity of impact to society – both local and global – across the academic units in almost all the UN Goals.  Impact narratives from 12 in-depth case studies across the campus (e.g. Business, Engineering, Geography, History) demonstrate significant institutional and community benefit as an outcome of CER. The results also highlight key institutional supports (e.g., Office of Research Services) and provide an enhanced understanding of key contextual features of successful Community-engaged Research (CER) initiatives.

Some of the key highlights of the report include:

  • Evidence that institutional investment in CER has leveraged significant external funds (over $21million between 2009-15);
  • The spectrum of CER across the campus is vast. A typology developed by OCUE identified over twenty types of CER at the University of Victoria (e.g. Indigenous methodologies, Citizen Science, Participatory Acton Research);
  • Confirms CER contribution to the local community in areas of critical local need;
  • Impact is documented at various levels (e.g. policy outcomes, program changes, student impact, client services) in almost all of the UN Sustainable Development Goals;
  • Strong evidence of impact to students’ academic and professional development and beneficial outcomes for the community partner organizations involved as a result of CER activities; and
  • There is a wide range and diversity of research outputs as demonstrated from the case studies. Both refereed and non-refereed publications represent the most significant output, including multi-media products, invited presentations, press coverage and social media buzz. This substantiates claims that non-academic forms of knowledge mobilization (i.e. refereed journal articles) have significant impact in society, and in many cases are the preferred mode of communicating research to the public.

The University of Victoria (UVic) is well known locally, nationally and internationally as an institutional leader in Community Engaged Research and Learning (CER-L). There are faculty members, students and staff in every corner at the University of Victoria who identify their research, learning and other scholarly work as being community-engaged.

To access the full report please visit the Office of Community University Engagement:
http://www.uvic.ca/ocue/research/research-projects/index.php . You can also access the report from the UNESCO Chair website: http://unescochair-cbrsr.org/pdf/resource/CER_Impact_Uvic_March_2017.pdf

Dr Crystal
Research Director, UNESCO Chair

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