Exploring an innovative method for objectively assessing the social value of university-community engagement and research
Kathryn Higgins, Grace Kelly, Ronaldo Munck et al
Methodological Innovations
School of Law and Government

There is increasing recognition regarding the potential of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to be significant Anchor institutions capable of impacting the wellbeing of the local communities where they are situated. Subsequently, more universities are prioritising their social and civic responsibility by embedding a research ethos based on closer engagement with their locality, within their key institutional processes. However, demonstrating the social value of community engagement in a meaningful way is difficult, particularly the type of intangible benefits such as relationship building and co-production of knowledge that are forged through collaboration. We present results of a pilot study which applied a Socially Modified Economic Valuation (SMEV) approach to three very different case study projects within a University-Community partnership initiative situated in Belfast, Northern Ireland, to help evaluate how well the university’s civic and social obligations are being fulfilled. Two sets of potential social weights were derived. The first was based on the official Deprivation Index and the second on a combination of desirable ‘social’ and ‘strategy’ goals. Findings showed that the social valuation element of SMEV may potentially be crucially important in assisting with nuanced interpretation of social value across different communities in different places.