LESSON LEARNED FROM THE 2nd ASIA ENGAGE; FINDING TRULY COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

Adib-ShomadM. Adib Abdushomad, M.Ed, Ph.D

We have seen that Community Engagement has been considered as a vital achievement for university throughout the plenary session at the Second Asia Engage at NUSA DUA Bali 17-24 November 2014. In fact, community engagement has been recognized as part of reward or credit point for academic to reach their Professorship in Thailand, and is institutionalized at CQU in Australia.

Following these trends, the Directorate of Islamic Higher Education, Ministry of Religious Affairs required to think seriously on how to integrate community engagement (CE) as part of the policy within Islamic Higher Education. Therefore, in this short presentation  (paper) let me explain why is it important to consider CE within our academic environment.

Integrating truly community engagement through University Research program.

University has been critically questioned for their research activity that mainly focuses on how to get data from the field of the research. Furthermore, university researcher tends to think “research activity only for the seek of researcher in itself where publication and academic promotion are their ultimate goals”. In this regards, community engagement has been defined very narrow, which enable the researcher to get their purposes. Furthermore, with this kind of relationship,as the result community has been viewed just like a box or things that can be put everything and therefore there is no such values in doing such community engagement because the priority does not lies in the community aspiration.

For this reason, integrating truly community engagement should be considered to transfer what we do in our university that can benefit for the community. Following this, the university should reflect their own community engagement research program by questioning themselves, who is actually benefit from our research?

The answer will be surely the community. If that the case, community engagement should be conducted truthfully, and honestly to get mutual relationship amongst the two parties. Therefore, university research program should go beyond boundaries and see a big picture of this kind of relationship.

Policy Intervention and Measuring Community participation

In order to put community as mainstreaming program within university, policy intervention is required to support truly community engagement. From the point of view of the government, I believe “it is difficult to create a truly community engagement with the absent of a policy that recognized this thing to happen.” Therefore, the policy intervention is made in order to make sure that the community engagement has become a new paradigm where community participation and empowerment are there.

Another issues in relation to the community engagement was the fact that the program sometimes could not work as planned in term of the process as well as its impact. This implies that measuring the successful of community participation become another very important elements, which consist as follows:

  1. Need Assessment; what is the problem and develop hypothesis
  2.  Program Theory in Assessment; How in theory, and does the program fix the problem?
  3. Evaluation process; does the program works as planned?
  4. Impact evaluation; were its goals achieved and to what extent it has been achieved (the magnitude).

From the above component of evaluation program, we can see why evaluation and measurement of the community engagement program are crucial because we can provide evidence on what works and vice versa, as well as we can do more with given or provided budget.  Furthermore, with the measurement in mind, we can differentiatebetween the output and the impact of the program.

Output: something that can be directly influence, have the ability to control such as community participation. Such as, we can send them letter of invitation, etc. Facilitate between the leader and the community as part of our intervention.

On the other hand, Impact: is something that we cannot control or influence such as mothers regularly visit hospital or puskesmas and receive quality care, even best resource provided.

Finally, as part of policy intervention learning from Thailand and Australia, the government in this case the Directorate of Islam Higher Education should design a program that enable a truly community engagement as mainstreaming program and even provide further Professorship requirement to acknowledge how much and how successful his/her community engagement has been done. If community engagements become one of the criteria to be a Professor, I believe academic community will be seriously to think about the truly community engagement.

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