Community Engaged Research and Learning
One of the pillars that defines the VUB is its deep connection to our dynamic, cosmopolitan capital. Brussels offers a vast array of opportunities for teaching, learning and research, in which global and local dynamics interplay. The surreal nature of our city – itself a paradox of splendour and complexity – provides the perfect context for students to engage actively in the challenging and rapidly evolving issues facing our 21st-century society. Furthermore, it allows staff to broaden professional networks, keep course content up to date, apply scientific expertise to real-life contexts and develop research projects that are attuned to local needs and assets.
VUB’s curriculum and research programmes continually strive to respond to and incorporate real-life contexts so that they align with the needs of our urban environment and its inherent opportunities. The term ‘community engaged research and learning’ (CERL) is used as an umbrella term for teaching, learning and research practices in which societal partnerships, real-world challenges and active and collaborative forms of work are used as building blocks to shape powerful learning environments, socially relevant and responsive curricula and cross-sectoral and transdisciplinary collaborations. The aim is to bring together academic and non-academic parties who seek to contribute to individual and collective progress.
In practice, CERL takes various forms, from place and challenge-based teaching and learning or community-based research projects to design workshops and non-profit consultancy work. CERL-practices foster integrative links across a wide variety of disciplines and stakeholders, and make their impact in a variety of ways. A large proportion of the VUB community is engaged in this work and as such our members become important assets within the communities they partner with. Naturally, these types of partnership can be challenging and require a careful balance of the needs and the desires of all parties involved. It is an important part of VUB’s mission to encourage these initiatives and support them with whatever tools and resources it can. The UNIVER.CITY-project offers a range of support tools that have been designed to help CERL-participants.