About Engaged Research

Academic research should not exist in isolation; it should actively contribute to the betterment of society. Through Engaged Research, university researchers, community members, and stakeholders can collaboratively tackle real-world challenges through co-creation of knowledge and mutual respect.

Rhodes recognises that knowledge generation and dissemination should not be confined to the ivory tower but should be powerful tools for positive social change. Through Engaged Research, we aim to bridge the gap between theoretical insights and practical solutions, addressing the pressing challenges faced by our society through collaborative engagement and co-creation of knowledge by all stakeholders.

The Community Engagement Symposium and the African Journal of Higher Education Community Engagement (AJHECE) add layers to our engagement. These platforms provide spaces for dialogue, knowledge dissemination and establishing a Global South body of knowledge on community engagement.

The Engaged Research programme is based on and embedded in theoretical frameworks, each contributing to its holistic andcommunity-centric approach. Ecosystems theory serves as a foundational lens, emphasising the interconnectedness and interdependence of individuals and their environments. This ecological perspective informs our commitment to understanding communities as intricate systems, recognizing the impact of various factors on their dynamics.

Critical theory, particularly rooted in critical pedagogy and feminist perspectives, shapes the programme's philosophy. It encourages a conscientious examination of power structures and dynamics, fostering a collaborative and co-created knowledge research environment. Humanism and Ubuntu philosophies embeds the programme with a profound sense of empathy, emphasising the intrinsic value of every individual and the communal nature of knowledge creation.

The post-colonial and post-structuralist perspectives guide our reflexivity, challenging dominant narratives and promoting a decolonized and deconstructed approach to research. This diverse theoretical foundation not only informs but actively shapes our Engaged Research programme, ensuring a nuanced and responsive engagement with communities that goes beyond traditional academic boundaries.


“Engaged research describes a wide range of rigorous research approaches and methodologies that share a common interest in collaborative engagement with the community and aim to improve, understand or investigate an issue of public interest or concern, including societal challenges.” Irish Research Council.


Engaged research is not a method of research but a spectrum of research methodologies which a shared goal of collaboration and inclusion. Its aim is to address, understand, or explore issues of public interest or concern, including societal challenges, through rigorous and collaborative engagement. These approaches encompass the various ways researchers collaborate with stakeholders throughout the research process - from identifying issues to co-creating knowledge and disseminating findings. It involves meaningful interactions with communities, public groups, and individuals connected to the research theme.


“Engaged research includes the different ways that researchers meaningfully interact or collaborate with various stakeholders over any or all stages of a research process, from issue formulation, the production or co-creation of new knowledge, to knowledge evaluation and dissemination. Stakeholders may include target communities, and members of the public or groups that are somehow related to the research process.” Stellenbosch University 


Community-Based Participatory Research

The Engaged Research Programme at Rhodes University is firmly grounded in the principles of Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR), ensuring a collaborative and inclusive
approach to knowledge creation and societal impact. This approach is locally responsive and globally engaged, aligning with the mission of the UNESCO Knowledge for Change (K4C) Global Consortium.

Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) is the highest form of Engaged Research and is based on the principles of mutual respect, shared decision-making and the equal distribution of power and resources. CBPR aims to address complex issues through a participatory process that engages community members as full partners in the research process.

Integrating CBPR into Rhodes University's Human Research Ethics Committee has been a pioneering step for engaged research at South African institutions. With community partner serving as a member on this Committee, we ensure that ethical considerations are not just theoretical but embedded in the fabric of our research initiatives. The community partner, Ms. Monica Canca, exemplifies our dedication to community inclusion and ethical research practices.


Principles of CBPR Engaged Research

Community-centered Approach: Engaged Research starts with listening to the community's needs, concerns and aspirations. The research is guided by the community's priorities, ensuring relevance and impact.

Collaboration and Partnerships: Collaboration is at the core of CBPR. Researchers, community members, local organizations, and other stakeholders work together as equal partners, combining their expertise to generate meaningful outcomes.

Shared Knowledge and Expertise: CBPR values diverse knowledge systems. It recognizes that community members possess invaluable insights based on their lived experiences, which enrich the research process.

Ethical Considerations: Ethical practices are fundamental to CBPR. Respecting the rights, cultures and dignity of all participants is paramount.

Sustainability: CBPR aims to create sustainable change. It goes beyond short-term solutions by considering the long-term impact of research outcomes on the community.

Engaged Research Resources


Key, K. D., Furr-Holden, D., Yvonne Lewis, E., Cunningham, R., Zimmerman, M. A., Johnson-Lawrence, V., & Selig, S. (2019). The continuum of community engagement in research: A roadmap for understanding and assessing progress. Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action, 13(4). https://doi.org/10.1353/cpr.2019.0064

Tandon et al. (2016). Chapter 2: Theoretical Pedagogical Framework for Community Based Research. In Tandon et al (eds.) Knowledge and Engagement: Building Capacity for the Next Generation of Community Based Researchers, pp 7-39. UNESCO Chair CBR-SR and PRIA.

Tandon et al (2016). Training the Next Generation of Community Based Researchers. A Guide for Trainers. 

Holliman, Richard (2017). Supporting excellence in engaged research. Journal of Science Communication, 16(5) pp. 1–10.https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-0009.12458

Mosavel, M., Simon, C., van Stade, D., Buchbinder, M. 2005. Community-based participatory research (CBPR) in South Africa: Engaging multiple constituents to shape the research question. Soc Sci Med, 61(12): 2577 -2587. 10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.04.041.  




Last Modified: Thu, 07 Mar 2024 11:28:36 SAST