Climate change, natural resource management, urban sprawl, and social inequality are examples of ‘wicked’ problems that affect people’s lives on a daily basis. Scientific knowledge about these issues has grown exponentially over the past few decades. At the same time, this knowledge often fails to be effective at the community level. There are various reasons for this: a lack of a shared understanding of the problems in the community with ‘outside’ researchers, the gap between scientific knowledge and action, and the low appreciation in the academia of local ‘lived experience.’
Students increasingly express an interest in conducting research differently: with communities rather than for communities. They want to experience what it means to do research in a community setting, with residents, non-governmental organizations, businesses, and governments and to co-create socially and scientifically robust knowledge before any action is undertaken. The Engagement Tool project is an intercollegiate effort to support classes at Penn State where students learn about this form of public engagement. Instructors are invited to use the tool as a resource in their classes. We aim to develop a learning community among instructors through workshops, showcases, and this website.