This year marks an important milestone for the Community Engaged Scholarship Institute (CESI), as our oldest program is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The Research Shop is one of four programs through which CESI fulfills its mandate to bring together community and campus skills and resources in order to advance community-identified research goals. CESI works to enable deep collaboration with community groups, honour diverse forms and locations of knowledge, and support meaningful collaborations that increase our shared capacity to create high-impact research.
Dr. Liz Jackson, CESI’s Acting Director, emphasizes the importance of the Research Shop to CESI’s mandate, saying,
“The Research Shop is an important program for CESI, enabling us to carry out responsive, quality research that will be immediately available to and used by our community partners and others in their sectors. For many years, the Research Shop was community members’ first point of contact with our Institute, and it continues to play an integral role in bringing us into new collaborations as well as supporting the emerging priorities of our longer-term collaborators. I am delighted to be marking this milestone and look forward to reflecting and sharing our learning at our upcoming symposium.”
About the Research Shop
The Research Shop was founded in 2009 and is located at CESI, within the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences at the University of Guelph. At the Research Shop, staff and graduate students work with local and regional organizations to design and carry out research projects that address community research priorities. Those research activities and outputs include literature reviews, needs assessments and program evaluations, among others.
The Research Shop was developed in consultation with international experts, and has been adapted to suit the community and academic context in Guelph-Wellington. Its mandate and structure have evolved over its ten years of operation to enhance community and campus experiences and impacts. Currently, the Research Shop is managed by one full-time staff member, and employs an average of 20 graduate students per year as Project Managers and Research Assistants.
Impacts of the Research Shop
Research Shop students come from a variety of disciplines on campus. They develop professional and academic skills by working on community-engaged projects and by receiving training from the Research Shop Coordinator, other CESI staff, and community-based experts. Students also contribute their own expertise to each project. Projects come from a broad range of organizations and communities, with a focus on social services and non-profit sectors. Since 2009, 170 Research Shop students have completed over 200 projects with more than 70 community partners. These high-impact projects have addressed complex social issues and responded to community-identified priorities. The Research Shop’s work has been shown to inform policies and programs at local, provincial, and national levels, and to foster collaborative relationships between our campus and our broader community.
“Community engaged work can be complex, with social, political, environmental and economic challenges constantly facing our communities. With a focus on interdisciplinary research and community engagement, the Research Shop has been able to work with community partners to address a wide range of challenges by being open to new ways of thinking, and being creative and innovative in our approaches to research.”
Recent CESI research tells us that the Research Shop has had distinct positive impacts for students and community partners. Community partners report that working with the Research Shop increased their access to resources and information, enabled them to build valuable connections and relationships with other staff, faculty, and programs on campus, and increased their institutional capacity and ability to serve their target populations. Students say that working with the Research Shop allowed them to build relationships with their peers and community partners, gain interdisciplinary knowledge, develop professional and academic skills, and expand their overall knowledge and expertise. The Research Shop has also increased students’ interest in their local community and in community engagement activities more generally. 79% of student survey respondents noted that their experiences at the Research Shop encouraged them to seek out and participate in other community-engaged activities.
As we mark the 10th anniversary of the Research Shop, we invite you to join us for a workshop and symposium to reflect on our work and continue to enhance our knowledge of community-university research practice and impact.