Networks of support in civic engagement

When I was a graduate student, I worked as a research assistant for the Talloires Network. Based at Tufts University, the Talloires Network is “an international association of institutions committed to strengthening the civic roles and social responsibilities of higher education.” With over 300 member institutions (including Duke) in 72 countries, Talloires is one of the largest, most internationally-focused higher education civic engagement networks. It is not, however, the only one. Duke is a member of multiple other civic engagement-related associations, including Campus Compact, the American Association of Colleges and Universities, the International Association for Research on Service Learning and Civic Engagement (IARSLCE), Imagining America, the Clinton Global Initiative University and The Research University Civic Engagement Network (TRUCEN).

As shown below, these networks all have different missions and goals. But why do so many of them choose the university-membership model, and why does Duke have so many “memberships”? A major advantage for Duke is that most of these memberships put us in good company. These networks all host forums and conferences, and they provide training and information on certain subjects. Imagining America, for example, held its annual conference in October. DOCE Director Megan Granda attended, and she wrote about a workshop she attended on “outcome harvesting,” an emerging assessment method that could be used to assess project outcomes in various areas at Duke. Members of these networks gain exposure to national and international experts from around the world. These networks often tout best practices, sharing what other universities are doing, and what’s working. Universities are able to learn from one another in a more coordinated way than what might be possible from more ad-hoc efforts.

University Civic Engagement Networks and their Missions

Ashoka U “catalyzes social innovation in higher education through a global network of entrepreneurial students, faculty and community leaders.”
Campus Compact “advances the public purpose of colleges and universities by deepening their ability to improve community life and to educate students for civic and social responsibility.”
Clinton Global Initiative University Network was created by President Clinton to “engage the next generation of leaders on college campuses around the world.”
Imagining America “creates democratic spaces to foster and advance publicly engaged scholarship that draws on arts, humanities, and design. We catalyze change in campus practices, structures, and policies that enables artists and scholars to thrive and contribute to community action and revitalization.”
International Association for Research on Service Learning and Civic Engagement works “to promote the development and dissemination of research on service-learning and community engagement internationally and across all levels of the education system.”
Talloires Network “is an international association of institutions committed to strengthening the civic roles and social responsibilities of higher education. We work together to implement the recommendations of the Talloires Declaration and build a global movement of engaged universities.”
The Research University Civic Engagement Network works to advance civic engagement and engaged scholarship among research universities and to create resources and models for use across higher education. TRUCEN calls upon research university colleagues to embrace a bold vision for civic and community engagement and work to bring it about.”

In a broader sense, most universities are likely members of hundreds – maybe thousands? – of associations. Duke departments are certified by various professional boards. Athletic teams are members of conferences and divisions – even the NCAA is a network, in a sense. The medical school and the hospital undoubtedly have a vast number of certifications, memberships and associations. Many of these associations denote excellence, whether in athletics, academics or civic engagement.

Large gatherings of network members can bring about discussion, analysis and innovation in the ways we engage. This week, Talloires Network is convening members from across the world for its Network Leaders Conference in South Africa. Conferences like this one – and the North Carolina Campus Compact meeting in February, the Clinton Global Initiative University national meeting in March and many others throughout the year – bring together civic engagement professionals and create a community of practice similar to those that exist in other disciplines.

As a member of these networks, Duke has access to research and resources that allow us to engage in our communities, meaningfully and intentionally. For all the ways we engage through Duke, collaboration and discussion with high-level peer institutions can allow us to continue to build and refine the initiatives that make us national leaders in civic engagement.