Edith Cowan University, Western Australia in association with Khon Kaen University, Thailand and Bansomdejchaopraya Rajabhat University, Thailand.
Community engagement is the touchstone of all universities and is critical to the credibility and overall standing of academic institutions. The cardinal features of engagement include ‗Capability, Commitment, Contribution, Continuity, Collaboration and Conscience‘. However these abstract concepts are often idealized and simplistic. On the other hand, when community engagement is managed well, participatory planning can produce better substantive ideas, useful relationships and stronger agreements across stakeholder groups. However, if engagement is more ritual than reality, it can lead to technically deficient ideas, frustrated expectations, power grabs in which parochial interests dominate conflicts and mistrust. This case study describes the realignment of graduate nurse education at Edith Cowan University‘s School of Nursing Midwifery and Postgraduate Medicine with community stakeholders, to develop and sustain enrolment of students in the graduate program, with a focus on community engagement. In particular, the problems encountered will be identified and the ―how to‖ and ―how not to‖ manage engagement processes will be discussed. Through the realignment process the pragmatic truths of community engagement emerged; namely, a conflict of agenda, unrealistic expectations of capability and ability of stakeholders, resistance to change. This occurred despite a true intent for meaningful, sustained and beneficial partnership. The ―how to‖ emerged through assessment and involved a reality check of the power of human agents. This led to the development of a conceptual model of community engagement which embodies a change management framework. The how ‗not to‘ involved developing a set behaviours and descriptors as a diagnostic tool to identify hidden agendas, white elephants, and personal shortcomings. In conclusion, the case study provides a set of practical resources for community engagement, lessons learned and strategies to overcome issues and concerns of real and perceived barriers. Further work is required to refine and test the approach in other settings.