Community Engagement Resources

Community Engaged Research

Faculty interested in engaging communities around research should also visit the Institute of Clinical and Translational Research.

Community Engagement Definitions

Community engagement is the process of collaborating with members of one or more “communities” to meet the goals or needs of community stakeholders. Communities can be defined geographically, socially, economically, or by using other parameters. The engagement process employs at least one of the methods below, listed in order from most reactive to community needs to the most proactive.

Direct (Community) Service

University stakeholders supply basic services or resources to people who need them. Examples include participating in clothing drives or volunteering at a soup kitchen.

Self Help

University stakeholders and community members affected by a problem collaborate to help each other cope or adapt to the problem. Examples include students working with community members to establish a litter cleanup schedule along MLK Boulevard.


University stakeholders provide information to help people affected by a problem to better understand and confront it. Examples include law students holding community workshops explaining the code enforcement process or tenants' rights in Maryland.

Community-Based Participatory Research

University stakeholders work with people affected by a problem to better understand the problem. Community stakeholders build capacity to gather evidence and leverage information to take action to confront the problem.  

Policymaking and Advocacy

University stakeholders establish or advocate the establishment of policies or regulations that address a problem impacting the community. Examples include students lobbying the Baltimore City Council to expand resources for homeless citizens or pressuring UMB to establish a free clinic.



Direct Action (Community Organizing)

University stakeholders bring community stakeholders together to build and use collective power to win real improvements in community life. Community organizing should challenge the status quo and the systems that maintain it. Examples include launching a campaign to establish a community land trust in West Baltimore.

Principles of Community Partnerships


  • Conduct self-assessment of motivations, capacity, and goals.
  • Become knowledgeable about the community’s characteristics, conditions, values, and relationships with stakeholders.


  • Be clear about the purposes or goals of the engagement effort and the populations and/or communities you want to engage.
  • Clearly communicate and share information that engages partners and builds and strengthens partnership.
  • Communicate commitment to inform, consult, involve, empower, and collaborate.


  • Establish authentic relationships, build trust by adhering to ethical principles, and honor commitments.
  • Identify ways to know each partner, minimize partnership bureaucracy, and maximize partnership accountability.


  • Accept that the institution’s expertise and knowledge are limited and can be improved upon by community members. 
  • Avoid assuming that an external entity can bestow on a community the power to act in its own self-interest.

Mutual Benefit 

  • Pursue real improvements that benefit all partners engaged.


  • Build a shared sense of ownership and leadership of engagement process.
  • Identify ways to know each partner, minimize partnership bureaucracy, and maximize partnership accountability.


  • Recognize and respect the diversity of the community. 
  • Effectively apply skills and knowledge in planning, design, implementation, and evaluation.


  • Identify and mobilize community assets and strengths.
  • Develop community capacity and resources to make decisions and take action.


  • Remain engaged long-term.


  • Be prepared to release control of actions or interventions to community control.
  • Be flexible enough to meet changing conditions and needs in the community.