Action Research Program

2013-14 Action Research Program
Generating New Knowledge to Strengthen the Civic Engagement Movement

The Talloires Network (TN) 2013-14 program takes advantage of the exciting opportunities for research embedded within and cutting across our existing programs and activities. Our research will focus on 16 university civic engagement programs in 12 countries that are participating in and being supported by two TN programs – Youth Economic Participation Initiative and the Talloires Network – Kettering Foundation Research Collaboration (see Table below). Working hand-in-hand with university heads, administrators, faculty, staff, students and community partners, we will develop a TN Community of Practice to reinforce relationships among members, scholars and practitioners; encourage South-North and South-South learning; and generate new and useful knowledge to strengthen and expand the civic engagement movement in higher education.

These 16 university civic engagement programs are excellent models worthy of support and analysis; they are dynamic examples of what the civic engagement movement in higher education looks like on the ground. We have purposely selected at least one program from each region of the globe, with three-quarters of them representing the global south. More than one-third are located in sub-Saharan Africa.

In consultation with the Steering Committee, secretariat staff, and members and partners, we have identified three key areas of research: (1) university civic engagement exemplars, (2) economic development and participation, and (3) incentives and rewards for engaged faculty. The TN secretariat conducts action research in the first two areas by way of its program exemplars and supports research by others in the third area. By design, these are not discrete research areas; they are overlapping and mutually reinforcing areas of inquiry and practice.

Research Foci: University Civic Engagement Exemplars by Region







Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia

Service-Learning to Support Graduate Transformation and SME Development



International Medical University

Kampung Angkat



Lahore University of Management Sciences

Literaty Pakistan



University of Western Sydney

Refugee Action Support



University of Glasgow


Latin America


Universidad Austral de Chile

Nucleus for Entrepre-Learning: Prendete UACh!

Latin America


Universidad Veracruzana

Engagement Program with the Productive Sector

Latin America


Tecnológico de Monterrey University

Brigadas Comunitarias

at Querétaro

North Africa


American University in Cairo

Lazord Academy

North America


Auburn University

Living Democracy

Sub-Saharan Africa

Burkina Faso

International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering


Promoting Science-based Social Entrepreneurship in Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa


Umutara Polytechnic

Solve the Equation East-Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa

S. Africa

University of Venda

Amplifying Grassroots Community Voices

Sub-Saharan Africa

S. Africa

University of the Witwatersrand


Sub-Saharan Africa

S. Africa

University of Cape Town

Graduate Entrepreneur Support Service

Sub-Saharan Africa


University of Zimbabwe


Guiding Questions
We will explore the two research areas gradually, in stages, and iteratively using our own practice as a mechanism for data collection as well as an opportunity for refining our thinking and writing. The following questions guide our inquiry and practice and they will be refined as we learn and grow.

(1) University Civic Engagement Exemplars
The TN is uniquely positioned to explore and understand the variety and depth of university civic engagement exemplars, how such programs evolve over time, and how they understand and measure community and university impact. Some of the questions our practice is designed to answer are: How do universities in different regions of the world understand their civic mission? To what problems of civic life are they attempting to address through efforts to better engage students in communities? What practices are universities around the world using to better engage students in communities beyond service learning? How do such practices evolve over time? What difference have these made in the civic capacities of students and communities? What are the challenges? How do universities and communities define civic learning outcomes? How do they assess them?

(2) Economic Development and Participation
This area of research focuses on university-educated youth, both current students and recent graduates, located in areas of the world with limited access to employment and, more specifically, less access to training and development of the skills required for labor markets. Some of the questions we aim to answer are: How can civic engagement contribute to the economic participation of university graduates in various contexts? In what ways do universities link their civic engagement programs with efforts to improve graduate economic participation? What are the specific characteristics of the entrepreneurial mindset? How can universities prepare entrepreneurial students to launch or join small businesses that have a positive social and economic impact in their communities? How do service learning and other engaged pedagogies contribute to entrepreneurship education and graduate employability? In transitioning from education to employment, how are the challenges that women face different from those faced by men?

(3) Incentives and Rewards for Engaged Faculty – See Research Support

Research Production, Support and Sharing
Throughout 2013-14, we will produce, encourage and support, and collect and share research in two areas. Below is a summary of our recent publications, which will be more widely distributed in months to come, as well as forthcoming publications, papers-in-progress, and research in progress.

Research Production

Recent publications:

Forthcoming publications:

  • “Moving Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Expanding Global Movement of Engaged Universities.” By L. Hoyt and R. Hollister in B. Hall and R. Tandon (eds.) Knowledge, Engagement and Higher Education: Rethinking Social Responsibility to be published by Palgrave Macmillan in January 2014.
  • An essay for “Institutionalizing the Civic” by R. Hollister for Bringing Theory To Practice’s Civic Provocations series, edited by Jill Reich


  • “Universities Without Walls: Engaging Our World” by J. Reid. Keynote address at Association of Commonwealth Universities 100th Anniversary Conference.
  • An article entitled “Chasing the Tail: Community-based Learning, Civic Engagement and Student Protest in Revolutionary Egypt” by Amy Newcomb Rowe and Martin Timothy Rowe for a special issue of Critical Sociology (A Critical Assessment of Community-Based Research)


  • Leaders in the Civic Engagement Movement – Program Exemplars series by L. Hoyt and A. Newcomb Rowe. From March 2012 through October 2013, we conducted monthly interviews with SC members and other leaders in the civic engagement movement and produced 14 short feature articles for the TN newsletter. This process helped us foster stronger working ties with leaders, share ideas with member institutions and partners, and build a collection of information that we published and distributed at our Steering Committee meeting in July 2013. From November 2013 through October 2013, we will launch and implement a strategically expanded LCEM series, which will include longer, more rigorous interviews with university heads, administrators, faculty, and students as well as community partners and funders who are contributing to exemplary university civic engagement programs in different regions of the world. By expanding the series, we aim to achieve the following goals: (1) raise visibility and interest in TN’s action research program; (2) collect information for case studies; (3) support a diverse array of leaders and leadership perspectives; and (4) create a publication for the next TN global conference.
  • Regional Perspectives on University Civic Engagement – An edited volume with in-depth, detailed cases of university civic engagement program exemplars around the world, replete with evidence illustrating how they impact both communities and universities. Chapters will be co-written by university administrators, faculty, students, community partners and funders to reflect the collaborative nature of such programs and to capture an array of perspectives on their efforts. Each chapter in the collection will include the history of the program, descriptions of institutional conditions and community environments, an account of program activities from multiple perspectives, an evaluation of the program (with disclaimers about the limitations of such evaluations), acknowledgement of mistakes and failures, and lessons learned from the program that may be relevant to others.

Research Support
In addition to producing publications in the two areas of research described above, we advance the field of civic engagement and higher education by encouraging and supporting research on Incentives and Rewards for Engaged Faculty among our members and partners.

  • Incentives and Rewards for Engaged Faculty: We encourage and support such research by leading the development of curriculum for training faculty and staff to conduct engaged scholarship, creating a repository of research publications on how engaged scholarship contributes to faculty diversity, research productivity, fundraising and alumni involvement, and gathering and sharing faculty promotion and tenure policies and guidelines that validate and reward engaged scholarship. In doing so, we seek to answer the following questions: Which universities and colleges have made significant strides in modernizing faculty incentive and reward systems? How and why were these changes possible? What are the key barriers? What do we know about early stage impacts of reform efforts?

Research Sharing
TN functions as a global resource by maintaining virtual and physical libraries on the broader topic of civic engagement and social responsibility in higher education as well as research in these two areas. We actively promote the exchange of knowledge among our members through a global Community of Practice. [TN Community of Practice will have a substantial economic development and participation component.] Through the following methods, members may easily access and exchange best practices.

  • Presenting research and promoting new publications at conferences, workshops, etc.
  • Accumulating and posting relevant research products to the TN web site
  • Showcasing our own as well as member and partner research publications in the monthly TN newsletter and blasting updates via Facebook and  Twitter.