Deep Dive into the 2020 Carnegie Community Engagement Classification

On January 24, 2020, 119 campuses were notified of receiving the Elective Carnegie Community Engagement Classification in this year’s cycle. Of these 119 campuses, 44 were first-time applicants. The Carnegie Foundation has been classifying higher education institutions since the 1970s, when they organized institutions according to degree level, specialization, and more. The Elective Carnegie Community Engagement Classification was introduced in the early 2000s, with the first classification cycle occurring in 2006. Further information about the history of the classification can be found in “The Elective Carnegie Community Engagement Classification: Constructing a Successful Application for First-Time and Re-Classification Applicants” edited by John Saltmarsh and Mathew Johnson of the Swearer Center at Brown University.

Institutions choose to apply for the classification for a variety of reasons. It is a prestigious classification, based upon a rigorous application process with a foundational framework to challenge institutions to think forward. Many institutions apply to receive the classification — and by applying, institutions will put themselves into a process of evaluating  their institution-wide community engagement commitments. The by-product of going through this framework will be a chance to get a multi-faceted deep dive and reflection on community engagement commitments and practices at your institution. Institutions who do not receive the classification receive feedback to inform their community engagement roadmap, and can reapply in the next classification cycle. Institutions may also recognize areas in which increased efforts in data collection will improve their strategic plans, shifting their operations to gather this data before the next cycle.

The Elective Carnegie Community Engagement Classification is a prestigious classification, based upon a rigorous application process with a foundational framework to challenge institutions to think forward. 

Moving forward, the classification is renewed every six years and reclassification is available every two. Between the 2015 and 2020 classification cycles, a total of 359 institutions are now classified as Community Engaged campuses. Of the 119 campuses that were either newly classified or reclassified in the 2020 cycle, 67 were public and 52 private. 3 were two-year institutions, while the remainder were four-year. Institutions that received the classification were wide-ranging in their research interests, program offerings, and location, with 47 of the 50 states represented. 

GivePulse is excited to have provided tech and platform support to the Carnegie Management Team, housed in the Swearer Center at Brown University, as they revised and streamlined the process. Georgina Manok, Assistant Director of Research and Assessment at the Swearer Center at Brown University, says that having everything together in one online portal allowed real time evaluation. Updates to the online Carnegie framework included the creation of a review process to evaluate and maintain reviewer notes on an application, an improved workflow, and access to data critical to the evaluation process. For Manok, “to access all this information and be able to analyze it in real time with all sorts of metadata has been amazing.” “Now we are beginning to think about how to use this technology to maximize transparency and participation in the review process for the 2023 cycle,” says Mathew Johnson, Associate Dean of Engaged Scholarship and Executive Director of the Swearer Center at Brown University. 

“To access all this information and be able to analyze it in real time with all sorts of metadata has been amazing.” 

Revision of the application process has gone well beyond the application portal. According to a document created by the Swearer Center, the revision process considered “both changes in the field and gaps in the framework.” Oversight of the framework revision process was led by Manok, Johnson, and Saltmarsh. Primary goals of the revision were to incorporate input from scholars in the field, to review current literature, to listen for emergent fields at national convenings, and to solicit formal input on identified issues. These revisions incorporated changes proposed by members of the National Advisory Committee. In her informational work for campuses, “So You’re Carnegie Classified, Now What?”, Manok suggests that classification is the moment “to plan what the next chapter of community engagement looks like on your campus.” Many campuses who receive the classification use this recognition to guide strategic planning for the institution, particularly looking forward toward reclassification in ten years’ time. The momentum of the classification process can be used to create sustainable infrastructures and to educate a campus (its departments, programs and institution) about the importance of the classification and commitment to it. 

The momentum of the classification can be used “to create sustainable infrastructures and to educate your campus about the importance of the classification and your commitment to it.” 

The collective community engagement data captured through GivePulse from the applications in this 2020 cycle as well as earlier ones, has benefits beyond those to individual institutions. The aggregate dataset can help tell a national story about how community engagement ebbs and flows, particularly regarding how engagement continues to evolve and be prioritized by in institutions as a way to develop the next generation of citizens and leaders for our communities.

The continuous improvement exemplified by campuses who continue to evolve their practice will be embodied in the revisions for the 2023 classification cycle. Those revisions are  already in the works. The 2023 revision cycle will open an online portal for contributions to the revision process in the next month. The classification is also piloting internationally. “It’s been really enriching to see the context of community engagement in different places,” Manok says. “This brings a lot of great learning back to the US.” They are halfway through the pilot project, with representatives from institutions in Canada and Australia doing their midpoint convenings this month. Looking forward, we hope to do more collaborations in the global south and in non-English speaking countries.”

“We are learning a lot from the reciprocal process we have been following in the international pilot that will undoubtedly be iterated onto the 2023 revisions,” said Mathew Johnson. ”We are grateful for the tech support that GivePulse volunteered for this round of application submissions and look forward to utilizing their tech expertise to also add to our continuous improvement.”

Tips for Preparing your Carnegie Application

GivePulse is excited to provide the platform for institutions of higher ed to apply or renew their Elective Carnegie Community Engagement Classification. The application cycle for the 2020 classification opened early this month. 

GivePulse is partnering with the College and University Engagement Initiative of the Swearer Center at Brown University to support campuses across the United States and beyond in preparing their applications.

Brian Halderman, our Director for Community Engagement and Success, has assisted campuses in previous application cycles. Below, he shares a few pointers for preparing your application, including collecting data and creating the narrative elements for your application. In the near future, he and the GivePulse team will share stories, updates, and important information about the Carnegie application and similar frameworks to help you assess and scale the work you do within your community.

Tips for Preparing your Carnegie Application

Build Community

Gather a committee of representatives from across campus that can help you pull together the required elements for the application. Think broadly about representation and the possibility of including individuals beyond the centers and departments doing community engagement work. For example, consider your institution’s communications, provost and president’s offices, among others, that may be able to provide strategic insights, examples, and support to the process. Identify a subgroup as a writing team and use the broader committee to review and revise your materials throughout the year.

Collect Evidence and Artifacts

In addition to qualitative examples of your institution’s collective impact, the application requires a number of quantitative data points. This is where a database like GivePulse can come in handy for institutions looking to track longitudinal impact and sustainable partnerships with the community.

If no such database exists, develop a plan with your committee to gather all of the necessary data and artifacts. This information should demonstrate reciprocity with your partnerships. They might include media coverage, reports, presentations, videos, etc.

Use Compelling Examples

You will likely collect many data and narratives from across campus. Use your committee to select the strongest and most compelling examples that demonstrate your institutional commitment to advancing the public good. Make sure you have the evidence (artifacts and data) to backup your case. A new element of this year’s application process is the opportunity for community partners to weigh in about their working relationship with the institution. In light of this addition, you will want to select your strongest and most sustainable partnerships so that you receive favorable and honest feedback.

Be Honest

The best part of the application process is that it provides the institution an opportunity to take a good, hard look in the mirror. It provides you with a tool to self-evaluate how well you are doing your work. Such reflection is always beneficial as it exposes challenges encountered and gives you a roadmap for improvement. Be honest in the application regarding your points of growth. No institution is doing their work perfectly and the review committee recognizes this reality. In fact, they will appreciate campuses being candid about their needs and their plan for improvement.

Take Action

Your committee will likely spend the better part of a year working on gathering information and writing the application. It is an investment of time and effort, so make sure to take action with what you have learned. With the information you have gained, develop a strategic plan for community engagement initiatives on your campus. The application process is an opportunity to highlight areas for improvement, such as data collection and assessment or advocacy for a change in the tenure and review process.

During the last application cycle, the institution where I was working had no repository for community engagement data. This meant contacting numerous departments, offices, and centers to gather information.  We quickly realized that no one center or person was focused on gathering, assessing, and digesting community engagement data at the institution. We learned that this would be important as we moved forward, as would having a database to assist us in this effort. These realizations led the institution to acquire GivePulse, and designate a center for tracking the data and reporting its findings annually.

We hope you have found these preliminary tips useful as you begin to think about your 2020 application. We at GivePulse are here to help you think about data gathering and assessing community engagement in new and innovative ways. Since our founding, we have been innovating alongside our campus partners and their communities to ensure institutions have quality data to tell their community engagement stories. From the Carnegie framework, to your local communities, to beyond, we are here to support your wonderful work.  

Check back in soon – more to come!

Best of luck to all campuses applying for the 2020 classification.