THREATS TO COMMUNITY-UNIVERSITY PARTNERSHIPS

Jennifer Shea, on the basis of an analysis of the current literature and concrete cases, has developed a typology of factors that may threat a community-university partnership.

Shea distinguishes among three main types of threats:  

  • Asymmetries among the players involved in the PE process
  • Inadequacies related to the management of the PE process
  • Divergences among the players.

Asymmetries can be of three types:

  • Asymmetries related to power, which may manifest themselves, for example, when a player makes rules and decisions without consulting community or when universities decide which groups are ‘worthy’ of partnership
  • Asymmetries related to information, which may manifest themselves, for example, when all the players have ‘inside’ information from own perspective (city politics, recent research, community priorities and solutions), without any exchange
  • Asymmetries related to organisation capacities, which may manifest themselves, for example, when a mismatch emerges between large, slow-moving bureaucracies and smaller flexible groups.

Inadequacies may be of three types:

  • Inadequacies related to rewards, which may manifest themselves, for example, when faculty/student time investment is not accounted for in evaluation process or when community outcomes are not sustained, with city or university ‘walking away’
  • Inadequacies related to resources, which may manifest themselves, for example, in facts like low levels of funding, lack of personnel or shortage of knowledge of skills
  • Inadequacies related to infrastructures, which may manifest themselves, for example, in facts like communications technology not fully developed or systems for sharing funding, decision-making, etc. do not exist.

Finally, as for the divergences, Shea identifies three kinds of divergence:

  • Divergences related to the focus, which may manifest themselves, for example, when one party prefers ambiguous definitions or parameters while others prefer precise ones
  • Divergences related to priorities, which may manifest themselves, for example, when partners cannot agree on top priorities
  • Divergences related to norms, about, for example, community empowerment, effective use of resources, learning and knowledge processes.

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