Community development among researchers 

Representatives from across the university focus on social responsibility

By Karen Herland

Dean of the School of Extended Learning Noel Burke (far right) addresses some of the researchers who attended the Oct. 7 roundtable on community development and social responsibility. Magnifying glass

Dean of the School of Extended Learning Noel Burke (far right) addresses some of the researchers who attended the Oct. 7 roundtable on community development and social responsibility.

About 50 faculty and students agreed the time was right to foreground research being conducted across the university on community development and social responsibility.

On Oct. 7, they spent half a day sharing their current research interests and ideas for potential collaboration and support structures.

“It seems having a number of experienced community development practitioners around the table means there is a vast pool of ideas and positive energy for moving ahead,” said Bill Reimer, sociology professor.

The roundtable was the third in a series of exchanges across Faculties and fields of expertise. Reimer organized the first discussion about 18 months ago on rural issues. He has researched economic and social challenges for rural Canada and has headed various iterations of the New Rural Economy project over a dozen years. He described the roundtables as opportunities for professors to “discover things about our colleagues that we had not known.”

The first meeting attracted 15 enthusiastic researchers. Last spring’s second environmental sustainability exchange attracted three times as many professors and grad students, and led to some promising discussions about future directions involving the researchers present. Representatives of Sustainable Concordia helped organize and record the event, and continued that role at the Oct. 7 discussion.

Noel Burke, the dean of the School of Extended Learning, agreed to introduce the roundtable theme of community development and social responsibility and underscored how the field reflects the university’s current strategic planning direction, which emphasizes community engagement and social responsibility.

In the second half of the roundtable, those present suggested promotion criteria might be re-evaluated to include community development, policy and advocacy work or that student and faculty training and support could be become available. Members of Sustainable Concordia agreed to prepare reports of discussions and suggestions to pass on to senior university administrators.

The roundtable format allowed each researcher to present their current work in four minutes. Burke joked the format resembled speed-dating and introduced the session announcing, “I’m your first date.”

He suggested participants engage in the idea that “we can make community development a signature for Concordia University.”

He stressed the goal was not to institutionalize or formalize research under the theme, but instead, to use the concept as a “doorway that more people will want to walk through,” establishing ways both researchers and practitioners could collaborate, support and validate each others’ work

Charles Cho, accountancy professor talked about a growing number of professors in the JMSB who are studying “the social and environmental effects of organizations’ economic actions.” His comments were echoed by Paul Shrivastava, who holds the JMSB David O’Brien Distinguished Professorship in Sustainable Enterprise.

Economic questions, and their impact on communities, were also of interest to researchers at the School of Community and Public Affairs and Satoshi Ikeda, sociology, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Political Sociology of Global Futures. Other researchers represented civil engineering, computation arts and design and arts therapies along with several presentations from Geography, Planning and Environment. Some presented concrete proposals for projects, others discussed the practice of their research as it related to community development and still others reflected on the bearing their models might have for community organizing.

The general discussion also raised the possibility of conferences including community representatives and organizations. For summaries of the discussions and updates on subsequent initiatives, see Reimer's site.


Concordia University