Community Action Research

There are many ways that HKUST faculty, staff and students can make connections between academic scholarship and the issues and challenges facing communities and non-profit organizations. Some approaches focus primarily on using the rigor and tools of academic research to collect data that will inform the activities of community organizations (e.g., conducting a marketing survey or program evaluation), but may not be designed to advance academic theory. Other research projects, however, may be crafted so as to contribute to the development of new knowledge in a discipline as well as providing results that are useful to the community.

A Partnership Approach
Community action research, sometimes referred to as community-based research, is a partnership approach that involves academics and community organization leaders and members in the joint development of a research project. The questions to be addressed, the design and implementation of the study and the presentation of the results are worked out collaboratively. Community-based research thus differs from traditional academic research in its purpose, its intended audience and how research topics are chosen. It focuses on answering questions directly related to policy or practice, has decision makers and community members as its audience, and is driven by community priorities rather than theory.

While employing the same rigorous standards as academic research, community-based research works to provide the data and tools a community needs in order to effect change, and, thus, serves the local community, with the possibility—but not the requirement—that there is also an element of the research that can contribute to scholarly knowledge.

Community-engaged Scholarship
What is coming to be known as "community-engaged scholarship" or "engaged scholarship" refers to a category of activities that has a dual purpose of advancing academic scholarship and providing results that are accessible and valuable to a community partner. Engaged scholarship not only involves and benefits the community, but also involves the faculty member’s expertise and advances the faculty member’s scholarship.

Engaged scholarship is receiving increasing attention because it is an effective way to draw upon the intellectual talents of a university and its faculty to address pressing social issues, while at the same time advancing scholarly knowledge. Engaged scholarship projects include an intentional public purpose, some level of community involvement in the process, and the final product of the research will have some level of community impact, as well as academic impact. 

See the Resources section for a link to a new online Research University Engaged Scholarship Toolkit.

How HKUST Connect Can Help
HKUST Connect encourages faculty and staff to pursue ideas for community-based research projects both as a method for teaching students about the design and implementation of research, and to pursue their own projects and scholarly research program. We can support these efforts by helping to identify potential community partners and develop a relationship with them. In addition, we are available to consult about the dissemination of faculty or student research or scholarship to community organizations that could benefit from the findings. For further information, please contact connect@ust.hk.