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Research Articles

Vol. 27 No. 3

NorthEast Grows: Dismantling Narratives of Assumed Mutuality in a Community-Engaged Permaculture Partnership

May 24, 2021


Higher education–community projects to support food security and food justice can improve health outcomes and increase community cohesion, but university funding may lead to power inequities that perpetuate marginalizing narratives. For this project, a regional state university, a local high school, and a nonprofit focused on building school gardens to offer university and high school students hands-on agricultural education and experience with a permaculture focus. Participant interviews revealed some disconnection and conflict between project goals and participant experiences. In this article we detail the planning phases of the project and self-reflexively unpack what we came to call a dominant narrative of assumed mutuality, which yielded uneven power dynamics that lowered school and community partner participation and buy-in. Findings reveal a need for a project design framework with structured, lateral, reflective communication practices across constituent groups to improve longevity and sustainability of collaborative projects.