Brown-bag Lunch – June 22nd, 23rd

Brown-bag Lunch – June 22nd, 23rd

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Interpersonal relationships are at the heart of community engaged work. We’ve found that the best conversations emerge over break, at lunch, or spontaneously during events and community gatherings. The work of building a community engagement strategy is long-term; we’ve just begun this journey, and value honest conversation with external and internal communities. As a part of creating connections, we put out an invitation for a ‘brown bag lunch’ in our office at Cecil Green Park House with a view of the ocean. The format was fairly informal, with a focus on having an opportunity to connect with others involved in community engagement from across campus and beyond. These conversations are a chance to learn from those across campus and also to ensure that our own approach resonates.

July 22nd and 23rd brown-bag lunches: Summary

On July 22nd and 23rd, were joined by staff and students from across the UBC Vancouver campus for a brown-bag lunch. Following are some of the notes that emerged from conversations on that day. These insights, perspectives, and ideas will be shared online, and will continue to shape approaches to community engagement. If you’d like to continue the conversation / respond to some of what’s here, feel free to leave a comment or send an email to

There is much we’ve heard overall in these two sessions. Overall, the 3 questions we have been asking seem to resonate. As a result of our conversations we’ve revised the questions slightly, and are looking to continue to revise as conversations continue. The suggestions around an appreciative approach, and finding ways to ‘do this better’, are useful in terms of helping us see the importance of finding positive examples of community engagement work. In terms of responses to the questions, there is too much to summarize briefly. In the fall we’ll be working to do some thinking about all the many things we have been and will continue to hear; please continue to share your thoughts, elaboration on what’s here, or insights as they emerge.

Through both of the sessions, participants provided thoughts on three key engagement questions that the CP Unit is thinking to ask this fall:

  1. Why do you value community-university engagement? Why is it important for UBC?
  2. What shared principles can we agree on to guide community-university engagement?
  3. What one thing would improve how UBC engages with external communities?

Following are thoughts on these questions, as well as responses to three key questions.

Thoughts on engagement questions

  1. Why do you value community-university engagement? Why is it important for UBC?
    • Why is community-university engagement important?
  2. What shared principles can we agree on to guide community-university engagement?
    • Where have you seen CE done really well? What made it so good?
    • ‘create foundation for’ rather than ‘can we agree on’?
    • Targeted (if you try to please everybody you end up pleasing nobody)
    • is across the board agreement possible on controversial issues?
  3. What one thing would improve how UBC engages with external communities?
    • What one thing makes / breaks community engagement? (what are the barriers?)
    • Where can we learn how to do this better?
    • ‘improve’ implies it’s not good – maybe ‘strengthen’?

Overall thought – having asked these 3 questions, important to then ask how they are connected…

Responses to questions

  1. Why do you value community-university engagement? (sub-question, responses not necessarily to this: Why is it important for UBC?
    • Catalyst for change at all levels (local, regional, global)
    • We are all part of the same community and all have something to contribute and learn
    • Models inclusivity (if done well)
    • It is the most meaningful way for university to share their knowledge and expertise. It gives purpose to what we are learning.
    • Community engagement normalizes university experience connects university with reality and doing meaningful real world work
    • Merging 2 knowledges; the university is wealthy in power, structure, time, knowledge. The community is wealthy in connection, knowledge, social power, sway.
    • It creates an opportunity for different entities to share their successes for them to thrive as a cumulative body
    • Builds capacity of community at UBC
    • Opens up minds, fresh ideas, dialogue, new discoveries and way of thinking (going in either direction)
    • Human element – personal impacts of community
    • Because UBC needs to stay connected to communities in order to stay relevant to them, and the rest of the world
    • Because it helps to lift up communities so that they can benefit from the knowledge they help to pay for and contribute to
    • Finding a voice within 60,000 other individuals, being encouraged and have the support to create an impact
    • We live in a context not a bubble; need to be responsive to that
    • We can have a greater impact on improving the world
    • Community funds us (directly & indirectly)
    • Increases relevance & purpose of what we do
    • Because there is great and varied experiential widom in community that UBC can learn from.
    • There’s more university experience then just education
    • We are a lot better off than others
    • Help push society, collectively to better place
    • Long-term for the future
    • UBC=specialists; community = generalists
  2. What shared principles can we agree on to guide community-university engagement?
    • Mutual interest – makes for sustainable (ie long-lasting) partnerships
    • Living diversity – promotes difference in opinions/ideas/successes/etc
    • Ask questions, open communication, be present
    • Inclusivity: respect & include different cultures, experiences, class, etc
    • Co-create with the community don’t just push out research
    • Facilitate dialogue on issues of public significance
    • Transparency of objectives
    • Targeted (if you try to please everybody you end up pleasing nobody)
    • Aboriginal rights, sustainability, respectful listening without prejudice
    • Mutual benefits – some orgs / groups feel that only UBC will benefit – limited conversations
    • Set aside, as well as embrace differences
    • Look at 5 analogies of John Robinson / CIRS: bricklaying, platespinning, needle in groove, etc
    • Long-term partnership versus short-term cause
    • Added value for both UBC & community
    • Respect and understanding each other
    • time
  3. What one thing would improve how UBC engages with external communities?
    • Blurring the lines between UBC and external communities
    • We care
    • Recognition at UBC that it is important
    • Provide incentives
    • Clear entry-point for community with follow-up
    • Culture shift
    • Leadership that promotes their passion for engagement
    • Help faculty see how giving back to community is part of their responsibility, part of why you are teaching, etc
    • Bring community to campus and UBC to community
    • Accessibility to campus, faculty research, experts
    • Ask community how they want to engage
    • Collaborate with community on research direction, engagement tours areas
    • Central location on campus for dialogue – visibility
    • More internal collaboration & communication to have a united front when approaching communities instead of all working separately
    • There are many different organizations and clubs (student run) that actively reach out to different communities
    • Clarity of the different values present amongst the variety of communities within UBC
    • Clear definition of UBC’s role (provide space for dialogue? Support? Fund?)
    • Closer connection between what we say we value, or the principles we follow, and the priorities at board/executive level
    • We shouldn’t be too beholden to industry or companies that do not deeply share our values
    • Professional development
    • Support networks particularly for people programming / running programs – similar to the marketing networks on campus

We also continued the trend from previous brown-bags and asked participants to draw ‘community’:

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And then to draw ‘community engagement’:

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