About the Elective Carnegie Community Engagement Classification
Carnegie Classifications comprise a leading framework for describing institutional diversity in U.S. higher education. The Community Engagement Classification is an elective classification for which institutions may voluntarily apply to be listed.
The classification is designed to gather information about how institutions are aligning their institutional infrastructure to enable and facilitate community-engaged work across the institution, and how they are gathering information and assessing the quality and outcomes from this work. It invites a variety of measurement and evaluation approaches, encouraging the provision of data and stories that reflect individual institutions. It is less interested in the specific results of the assessment and more interested in the question of whether or not outcomes and impacts are being attended to, and if so, how? Every five years, changes are made to the documentation framework to reflect the complex, dynamic and changing environment.
The Carnegie Foundation’s Classification for Community Engagement is an elective classification and has been the leading framework for institutional assessment and recognition of community engagement in US higher education for the past 13 years. It is based on voluntary participation by institutions. The elective classification involves data collection and documentation of important aspects of institutional mission, identity and commitments, and requires substantial effort invested by participating institutions.
As of 2020, there were currently 361 campuses with the elective Community Engagement Classification in the US.
Community engagement describes the collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.
The purpose of community engagement is the partnership of college and university knowledge and resources with those of the public and private sectors to enrich scholarship, research and creative activity; enhance curriculum, teaching and learning; prepare educated, engaged citizens; strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility; address critical societal issues; and contribute to the public good.
Why does the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification focus so much on partner interaction and co-creation?
The collaborative and co-creative approach inherent within partnership is fundamentally important to relationships of mutual benefit and reciprocity.
“Outreach” and “partnership” are terms that have been used to describe two different but related approaches to community engagement. Outreach has traditionally focused on the application and provision of institutional resources for community use. In contrast, partnership includes collaborative interactions between communities and colleges/universities for the mutually beneficial exchange, exploration, and application of knowledge, information, and resources, including research, capacity building, economic development, and others. The distinction between these two is grounded in the concepts of reciprocity and mutual benefit, which the Classification explicitly explores. Reciprocity assumes a flow of knowledge, information and benefits in both directions between the college/university and community partners. It identifies relationships between those in the college/university and those outside the college/university that are grounded in the qualities of mutual respect, shared authority and co-creation of goals and outcomes.
The nuances between outreach and partnership speak to a deeper purpose around “epistemic justice” which, at its core, is about the current systems and structures in our society that privilege certain forms of knowledge, thereby undermining the value of others. The way post-secondary institutions have been organized positions academic knowledge in a place of great power. The tradition of academic institutions presenting themselves as experts, using community issues as subjects for research, and offering solutions to communities ‘in-need’ has perpetuated a social hierarchy separating the academy from the community. Establishing partnerships as defined by the Classification can shift power from the “ivory tower” to the community, to ensure engagement is mutually beneficial and appropriately values the knowledge and interests embedded within communities.
What is the purpose of the Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement? What is it and what is it for?
The Classification rests on Eckel, P., Hill, B. & Green, M. (1998). On Change: En Route to Transformation. It is intended to support a process for institutional learning and transformation, the outcome of which is an institution in which high-quality community engagement is deeply rooted and pervasive. Eckel et. al. (1998) characterize institutional transformations as processes that alter the culture of the institution by changing select underlying assumptions and institutional behaviours; they are intentional, deep and pervasive, impacting the whole institution over time.
The framework recognizes that each institutional context is complex. Rather than evaluating impact, it is designed to gather information about how institutions are aligning their institutional infrastructure to enable and facilitate community-engaged work across the institution, and how they are gathering information and assessing the quality and outcomes from this work, themselves. It is less interested in the specific results and more interested in the question of whether or not these areas are being attended to, and if so, how?
By focusing on institutional processes, the classification enables situated learning, sharing and best practice development within each institution and across the sector. The goal is change over time: if an institution does not have a process yet for certain parts of the framework, if they can show the ways in which they are working towards it, this is counted towards the credit.
Why is the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching interested in expanding outside of the US internationally and in Canada?
The Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement is based in Grounded Theory which has allowed for the emergence of theory and practice that reflects a broader movement in community engagement and a growing body of work and scholarship that recognizes the foundational importance of reciprocity and partnership.
The Carnegie Foundation’s commitment to continuous improvement and to creating communities of practice around high quality community engagement has, therefore, made it very natural to extend inquiry and support into other contexts, such as Canada.
The Canadian cohort is one of a few international pilots of the Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement with other pilots in Australia and Malaysia. Conversations regarding two other international pilots in Africa and Singapore are currently underway. In 2015-2016, nine campuses in Ireland went through a yearlong process of administering the Community Engagement Classification for the purpose of self-assessment and to provide feedback on ways in which the documentation framework (application) might need to be adapted to account for the national and cultural context.
Who is behind the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification?
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is committed to developing networks of ideas, individuals, and institutions to advance teaching and learning. They work to join together scholars, practitioners, and designers in new ways to solve problems of educational practice. Toward this end, they work to integrate the discipline of improvement science into education with the goal of building the field’s capacity to improve.
Founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1905 and chartered by an act of Congress, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching is an independent policy and research center. Improving teaching and learning has always been Carnegie's motivation and heritage.
Former Administrative Homes for the Carnegie Framework
Albion College was the administrative home for the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification between July 1, 2020 and December, 2021. The Classification was previously housed at the Swearer Center of Brown University (2017 – 2020) after being launched at the New England Resource Center for Higher Education (2005).