Community engagement, also called civic engagement, is not a term most people use regularly. However, most of us have experience with what community engagement is all about! Community engagement is active participation in your community and being invested in what happens in your community. It includes direct service, policy and governance, community organizing and activism, community-engaged learning and research, and social entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility. 

“Civic engagement is acting upon a heightened sense of responsibility to one’s communities and a heightened understanding of one’s identity. This includes a wide range of activities, including developing civic sensitivity, participation in building civil society, and benefiting the common good. Civic engagement encompasses the notions of global membership and interdependence. Through civic engagement, individuals—as members of their communities, their nations, and the world—are empowered as agents of positive social change for a more democratic world.” —adapted from B. Jacoby, Civic Engagement in Higher Education, 2009

Types of Civic Engagement and Public Service

Community Engaged Learning and Research: Connecting coursework and academic research to community-identified concerns to enrich knowledge and inform action on social issues.

Community Organizing and Activism: Involving, educating, and mobilizing individual or collective action to influence or persuade others.

Direct Service: Working to address the immediate needs of individuals or a community, often involving contact with the people or places being served.

Philanthropy: Donating or using private funds or charitable contributions from individuals or institutions to contribute to the public good.

Policy and Governance: Participating in political processes, policymaking, and public governance.

Social Entrepreneurship and Corporate Social Responsibility: Using ethical business or private sector approaches to create or expand market-oriented responses to social or environmental problems.

*Adapted from Pathways of Public Service, in partnership with the Haas Center for Public Service, Stanford University.

Pathways of Public Service and Civic Engagement



Community Engagement Values and Principles:

  1. Reciprocity in Partnership: Develop and cultivate collaborations with community partners for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity (Carnegie Foundation, 2012). Partnerships should honor the community partners’ expertise and experience and involve community partners in the design, facilitation, and evaluation of service initiatives to the fullest extent possible to ensure the community’s value and relevance. Participants should seek to do with rather than to do for or do to the community. 
  2. Clarifying Expectations and Commitments: Develop goals and outcomes based on community partners’ needs and preferences. Model accountability and the importance of honoring commitments made to community partners.
  3. Preparation: Prepare for a community engagement initiative with the attitudes, skills, and knowledge needed to serve effectively and enter the community mindfully and respectfully. Preparation should include issue-, community-, and identity-based education. Community partners should be provided with opportunities to share content and contribute to the context setting.
  4. Empathy and Respect for Diversity: Model respect for diversity, broadly and inclusively defined, in all initiative elements. Actively challenge any biases, stereotypes, and assumptions regarding the community being worked with and include reflecting on students’ identity and relationship to the issue as part of the experience. Acknowledge and explore any differences in culture between the university and community and identity, experience, and/or culture between participants in the program to increase learning and understanding of self and others.
  5. Safety and Wellbeing: Anticipate and take steps to ensure the physical and emotional wellbeing and safety of all community engagement participants. Seek out and comply with any special safety concerns or liability requirements of the community partner and university.
  6. Reflection and Evaluation: Intentionally incorporate opportunities for reflection before, during, and after community engagement, involve community partners in reflection whenever possible. Include opportunities to gather feedback from student participants and community partners to assess value and impact and inform future projects.
  7. Humility: Engage the community with a listening and learning mind, heart, and attitude that is mindful of the community’s needs, assets, and interests. View all community engagement as a valuable learning opportunity that expands understanding and compassion.

Values and principles were adapted from the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University.