Literature review

Community engagement, partnerships and research into policy and practice: a literature review

Public health Community development Communities Publishers and publishing Australia
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This literature review looks at community engagement and academic research with a particular emphasis on public health issues.


Community engagement is a term that has come to be associated with a broad range of activities involving the interaction of universities and researchers with communities. In the health field, there has been a particular recognition of the role of community engagement in research (establishing research objectives, jointly undertaking research, and sharing the roles in the reporting and dissemination of research findings).

More broadly, universities and researchers have been engaged in building local, national and international partnerships with communities, community-based organisations, NGOs, social services and practitioners, other researchers/institutions and government to conduct research or community-based projects.

The purposes of community engagement and partnerships in research are generally to improve the quality of the research itself and, through this, to promote positive changes in people’s lives. The latter involves dissemination of results in a variety of formats to a range of stakeholders, and engagement/advocacy to effect changes in policy and practice. The process, outcomes and impact of these sorts of research and activities are understood and described in a range of ways.

The following paper presents a literature review with the aims of:

  • defining the range of terms and concepts that describe the engagement of researchers with society, communities, social services and government,
  • focusing on both the process and impact of these sorts of research, and
  • investigating ways of measuring and valuing research that involves community engagement, partnerships and influences changes in policy and practice.

The review was based on a detailed literature search across several databases. This is not a systematic review but provides a broad overview of the international and local literature.

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