Civic Engagement Resources

Duke Policies and Procedures

Below are some essential Duke policies for engaging in the community. Remember that community partners may have their own waivers, trainings and policies by which you must abide. Be sure to do your research ahead of time and ask questions when in doubt.

Student Organization Policies 2020-2021

Minors in Duke University Programs

Template Memorandum of Understanding

Example Release of Liability

Example Photo Release

Duke Community Standard


National Networks and Organizations

Campus Compact

A national coalition of 1,000+ colleges and universities committed to the public purposes of higher education.

Community-Campus Partnerships for Health

A nonprofit membership organization that promotes health equity and social justice through partnerships between communities and academic institutions.

The Research University Civic Engagement Network (TRUCEN)

A network which works to advance civic engagement and engaged scholarship among research universities and to create resources and models for use across higher education.

Association of American Colleges and Universities

A national association concerned with the quality, vitality, and public standing of undergraduate liberal education.

Imagining America

A consortium of over 100 colleges, universities, and cultural organizations dedicated to strengthening the public roles of arts, humanities, and design fields through research and action initiatives, coalition building, and leadership development.

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE)

A center housed at the Tisch College of Civic Life which conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans.

Principles of Effective Community Engagement


Begin with a humble mindset, recognizing the value of listening and respecting the various perspectives and experiences of those with whom you are working. Though you may have unique strengths you can bring to the table, begin by first learning about the strengths and perspectives of the broader community and partner. Consider what already exists and what you may learn from others.

  • Where are your gaps in knowledge relating to the issues or community?
  • What assumptions, ideas or beliefs do you hold about this community? Are you open to having those assumptions challenged as you learn from others?
  • Who do you know who can help you? How can you support existing efforts?
  • How are you approaching this project­ – as a learner, an ally/advocate, problem solver or something else? Is this approach flexible?
Preparation and Reflection

Before entering into a new community, take the time to learn about the history, strengths, challenges and community context. Also take time to understand your own values, beliefs and various identities. Throughout your experience, challenge your own beliefs and assumptions and engage in thoughtful reflection about your work and your role.

  • What are the systemic, historical and institutional forces that give rise to the issues that you hope to address?
  • What skills and knowledge do you need to develop before serving in the community?
  • What is your role in the community and how might your involvement be perceived?
Relationship Focus

Build trusting, reciprocal and sustainable relationships by taking the time to get to know the community and the people who are a part of it. Be open, responsive, communicative and focused on mutual benefits. Work together to set clear expectations and establish a realistic timetable for communication and evaluation.

  • Who benefits from the partnership and how?
  • How can you use your strengths and unique position to best serve in this relationship?
  •  In what ways do your timeframe and expectations align or conflict with those of the community partner? How will you practice flexibility and open-mindedness when expectations differ?
Equitable Partnership

Let your work be identified and driven by the community partner, responding to the needs and assets that are most salient for the community rather than imposed externally. Work to create inclusive environments in which all voices are heard and valued. Reflect on and try to understand the unique power dynamics that may be at play and work to distribute power equitably in this partnership.

  • Who identified the need for the project or partnership and who participated in how it was shaped?
  • How is power distributed in this endeavor? Which way does money flow in this project and how might that limit equity or partnership?
  • What expectations, distrust or hesitations might a community partner have about your project?
Asset-Based Perspective

Rather than entering into a community with an idea of “fixing” some aspect of it, approach your work with an asset-based perspective, seeking to understand the unique strengths and resources that already exist.

  • What are the strengths present in the community?
  • Who in the community is already working on these issues? How can you collaborate to support those existing efforts?
  • Are you willing to step back from engagement if you learn your collaboration does not promote the strengths or best interests of this community?

Please contact us to set up a consultation about how you may adapt these principles to your work.

These principles were developed based on examples from within Duke and across other institutions of higher education, with special attention paid to the Principles of Community Engagement developed by the Office of Community Relations at Duke Health and the Principles of Ethical and Effective Service developed by the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University. They were also informed by community input shared during the Civic Action Planning process and refined using feedback from the University Council on Civic Engagement and other campus partners.