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Projects with Promise

Vol. 23 No. 2

The Degree of Collaboration Abacus Tool

October 8, 2019


Community-engaged scholars, practitioners, and community partners often find the language of community engagement challenging. Words like participate, collaborate, partner, or engage fail to convey who in a community–university partnership has voice and authority in decision-making and responsibility for actions. The Degree of Collaboration Abacus Tool was developed as a visual to address this challenge. The authors provide two case studies to demonstrate how this tool can be used to name steps in community-engaged projects, clarify voice and decision-making authority, and represent collaboration responsibilities at multiple project stages. The Matter of Origins evaluation example illustrates how the tool can be used in a community-engaged research setting. The GRAND Learning Network example demonstrates how the tool can be used in a more complex community-engaged teaching and learning context. In the conclusion, the authors acknowledge the tool’s potential limitations and imagine possible adaptations of the tool for other community–university partnership contexts.