Developing a university-voluntary sector collaboration for social impact

Sarah Weakley, Paula S. Karlsson, Jane Cullingworth, Laura Lebec, Katie Fraser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
45 Downloads (Pure)


This article outlines how a team of academics, professional staff and students from a Scottish University in the United Kingdom worked with voluntary sector partners to achieve civic and ‘social purpose’ goals, through setting up a project called The Collaborative. This is a reflective paper that draws on collaborative autoethnography and is written collaboratively by that team of academics, professional staff and students. We explore how universities can achieve their civic engagement goals by serving as anchor institutions, and we develop a conceptual framework for how anchor institutions can enact their institutional mission of ‘social purpose’. We uncover important considerations for university initiatives aiming to improve academic and student engagement with community partners for social change, with three learning points around building relationships, building capacity, and barriers to engagement. Service-learning can be used as a pathway to becoming a civic university, however, there are structural barriers that need to be overcome. This is an account of an ethical fact-finding project, reflecting on our experience of working with the local voluntary sector, designed to facilitate the University’s better engagement with such collaborative ‘social purpose’ ventures.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Pages (from-to)71-88
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of University Teaching and Learning Practice
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • civic engagement
  • author institution
  • higher education
  • service learning
  • voluntary sector
  • collaborative autoethnography
  • cross-sector collaboration


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