“We need to keep an open dialogue”: Annual Idea Exchange brings together campus and community

More than 130 McMaster faculty, staff and community partners gathered recently to share ideas and experiences and lessons learned at the annual Community-Campus Idea Exchange.

More than 130 McMaster faculty, staff and community partners gathered recently to share ideas, experiences and lessons learned at the annual Community-Campus Idea Exchange.


Be open to new ideas. Build relationships, then build projects. Go slowly and get it right.

These were just a few of the lessons campus and community partners shared with the more than 130 McMaster faculty, staff, students, and community members who gathered for the annual Community-Campus Idea Exchange 2018: Moving Forward Together.

The event, held recently in CIBC Hall, and organized by McMaster’s Office of Community Engagement, was aimed at creating a space to share ideas and experiences, and to find ways to make a difference in the Hamilton community through the development of community-campus partnerships.

“We’re here to share successes, challenges and the lessons learned through our work together,” said Sheila Sammon, McMaster’s director of community engagement, in her opening remarks. “When it comes to partnerships, we need to understand what’s working and, just as importantly, what’s not working. To do that, we need to keep an open dialogue going between campus and community and that’s one of our goals today.”

Through presentations and round table discussions, participants heard about a range of initiatives co-developed by McMaster staff, faculty, and students in partnership with community organizations, sharing how these partnerships were developed and inspiring participants to consider creating new partnerships going forward.

Sammon and Manager of Community Engagement, Dave Heidebrecht, provided an overview of the activities of the Office of Community Engagement and the role it plays in helping to facilitate new partnerships. They also spoke about the five-year strategic plan for community engagement– now at its halfway point – and about key initiatives the Office has supported in recent years including CityLab, the Research Shop, and the Interdisciplinary Minor in Community Engagement.

Learn more about McMaster’s 2015-2020 Community Engagement Strategic Plan

McMaster Provost David Farrar; Vice-Provost (Faculty), Susan Searls Giroux; and Associate Vice-President (Students and Learning) and Dean of Students, Sean Van Koughnett also took part in the event, sharing their thoughts on the importance on community campus partnerships and highlighting the ways in which community engagement has become more deeply embedded in the research and academic activities of the university in recent years.

“We have only just begun,” said Searls Giroux, who oversees community engagement at McMaster. “Momentum is building across campus and across universities in Ontario as part of a more refined and focussed effort to improve communications and coordination internally so we can better engage and advance the interests of our external partners.”

In addition, a number of speakers highlighted the work of the Network for Community Campus Partnerships which celebrates its five-year anniversary in September. Made up of representatives from across campus as well as community members, the formation of the Network was a key recommendation to emerge from the Forward With Integrity Community Engagement Task Force.

The Network, along with the Office of Community Engagement, serves as resource to those seeking information about community-engaged research and education, and is contributing to the implementation of Working Together for an Inclusive, Sustainable Hamilton,McMaster’s strategic plan for community engagement.

For more information about initiating a community-campus partnership, contact the Office of Community Engagement at community@mcmaster.ca.

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