The Charlotte Action Research Project: A Model for Direct and Mutually Beneficial Community–University Engagement

Elizabeth Morrell, Janni Sorensen, Joe Howarth


This article describes the evolution of the Charlotte Action Research Project (CHARP), a community–university partnership founded in 2008 at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and focuses particularly on the program’s unique organizational structure. Research findings of a project evaluation suggest that the CHARP model’s unique strength lies in its ability to allow for the exploration of “wicked” problems that have resulted from structural and sociospatial inequality in cities because tangible issues identified by community partners become action research priorities for the CHARP team. Additionally, CHARP allows for the transcendence of the practical, logistical barriers often associated with community–university partnerships by employing graduate students as staff. It is suggested that the CHARP model provides a starting point for a unique model of engagement infrastructure at universities that goes beyond service provision and volunteerism to include community-based participatory and action-based research within a critical theory paradigm.

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