May 10, 2019

Community engagement symposium ignites community partnerships in the city

More than 200 community members attend symposium hosted by UCalgary
UCalgary and community members gathered to discuss the future of community engagement and partnership at Knowledge to Impact: Igniting Community Engagement in the City Building Design Lab on April 29.

UCalgary and community members discussed the future of community engagement and partnership.

Collene De Neve, for the University of Calgary

On April 29, community members interested in working in partnership with the University of Calgary descended on the University of Calgary’s new City Building Design Lab in the old central library to attend a symposium discussing city building. 

Knowledge to Impact: Igniting Community Engagement brought together partners from organizations such as Calgary Economic Development, Calgary Pride, Mustard Seed, Fig Tree Foundation, United Way of Calgary and Area, and YMCA Calgary with UCalgary students, faculty, staff, researchers, and experts to discuss how to build, nurture and leverage partnerships in the city.

“There is a real appetite in the community for the university to come forward and to play a more active and visible role in the community, to help community resolve some challenges,” says John Alho, associate vice-president (government and community engagement). “We also learned about the challenges of connecting with the right people at the university and recognize the need to come up with some creative solutions to make it really easy to connect.”

Dr. Michael Hart, vice-provost, Indigenous engagement, gave an inspiring morning keynote where he highlighted an important call to action for the university community to move toward reconciliation by attending workshops, utilizing resources and taking part in ongoing dialogues.

After a full day of events including guest speakers and panel discussions, attendees walked away with new insights.  

Building sustainable community partnerships

Participants explored the university’s role as an anchor institution in the city and had rich discussions about the opportunities and challenges with building mutually beneficial and sustainable community partnerships

Community Engagement Symposium 2019

“The opportunity to participate in such a dynamic event with the University of Calgary was a sincere privilege for United Way,” said Beth Gignac, COO of United Way of Calgary and Area. “We consider our relationship with the University of Calgary to be unique and very special — when we join efforts across research, policy and practice we’re confident that we’ll create a community where everyone will be able to see themselves and thrive.”

Gignac, who was the afternoon keynote speaker, commented on the level of engagement at the symposium: “I really appreciated the nature of the questions and the sincere intention of everyone in the room to continue our conversation into the future.”

Exploring engaged research, teaching and learning

Attendees also had the opportunity to learn about engaged teaching and learning, which incorporates community through requirements like community service or work integrated learning — and engaged research, which focuses research efforts on addressing local community and industry needs. Participants also heard about how the university positions itself as a thought leader and partner with the broader community.

The symposium was hosted by the Office of the Provost, Office of the Vice-President (Research) and University Relations, and planned in collaboration with the Faculty of Arts, Werklund School of Education, Cumming School of Medicine, O'Brien Institute for Public Health, Haskayne School of Business and members of the Experiential Learning and Community Engagement teams.

More than 200 people registered to attend the event, with 40 per cent of participants from UCalgary and 60 per cent being professionals working in community engagement roles around the city. Photos of the work of participants can be viewed here.