by Beth Tryon
On October 19th, 2012, representatives from seven universities in the region met at the Center for Urban Research and Learning (CURL) offices at Loyola University-Chicago to discuss the possibility of forming a network of Midwest ‘Science Shops’. Serendipitously, Norbert Steinhaus from the Bonn, Germany Science Shop and coordinator of Living Knowledge, the international science shop network, was able to stop by Chicago on his way from Germany to Toronto (we bent the map a little!) to provide his guidance. According to Steinhaus, the purpose of a science shop network is to share ideas, experience, and research with different communities so that the same research doesn’t get repeated over and over. Science shop networks also give all citizens better access to scientific expertise because academic information is accessible and openly shared. Individual science shops can distribute information to networks so that other communities can benefit as well.
CURL is one of the most established science shops in the US. Director Phil Nyden described how CURL brings community and university knowledge together by using community partners at all levels of research, but most importantly, at the conception of an idea or issue, and embraces learning and teaching that goes in both directions. They work on projects that have deep impact – participatory evaluations, providing data for advocacy campaigns, researching models of successful community programs, and creating educational videos about community issues. CUE’s contributions included Beth Tryon’s description of CUE’s infrastructure, and Randy Stoecker’s presentation on his Community Development model with Mary Beckman of the Center for Social Concerns at Notre Dame. Mary also shared her work on designing CBR for maximum community impact.
At the meeting, representatives decided to pursue this idea of a regional network to create a community of practice that will allow practitioners to ask each other for administrative and research guidance, share their own experiences and best practices and provide a stronger voice for this type of community engagement. Although they wanted to keep this regional network within a driving distance context, it will also link into national and global networks such as Living Knowledge, Community- Campus Partnerships for Health, and GACER (Global Alliance for Community-Engaged Research). The group decided on a working title of “Midwest Knowledge Mobilization Network”.
Indiana University Purdue University of Indiana (IUPUI) has volunteered to host the next Midwest Knowledge Mobilization Network meeting on April 12, 2013 in the IUPUI Campus Center. Agenda, registration info and lodging suggestions will be coming shortly. If you would like to be on the email list for the details, please contact Teresa Bennett of the Solution Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-278-9170. ■