The purpose of this study was to inform global citizenship practice as a higher education (HE) agenda by comparing retrospective experiences of a range of community engagement (CE) partners, including the often silent voices of non-researcher partners. HE-CE aims to contribute to social justice as it constructs and transfers new knowledge from the perspectives of a wide range of CE-partners. This qualitative secondary analysis study was framed theoretically by the transformative-emancipatory paradigm and meta-theoretically by phenomenology. Existing case data, generated on retrospective experiences of CE-partners in a long-term CE-partnership, were conveniently sampled to analyse and compare a range of CE-experiences (parents of student-clients (n = 12: females 10, males 2), teachers from the partner rural school (n = 18: females 12, males 6), student-educational psychology clients (n = 31: females 14, males 17), academic service learning (ASL) students (n = 20: females 17, males 3), and researchers (n = 12: females 11, males 1). Existing data sources included verbatim transcriptions of (i) audio-recorded Participatory Reflection and Action (PRA)-directed group sessions (parents, teachers, student-clients), (ii) telephonic interviews (ASL-students, researchers) and semi-structured interviews (ASL-students); as well as rural school context observation data documented textually (audio-visual recordings and photographs) and textually (field notes).
A significant insight from this study is that a range of CE-partners experience similar benefits and challenges when a university and rural school partner. Whereas all CE-partners experience HE-CE as beneficial for human capital development, they all experience that HE-CE is challenged by the structural disparity between a rural context and operational miscommunication. CE-partners with higher education levels experienced that the HE partner is an agent that facilitates knowledge generation. These CE-partners indicated that both academic researchers and non-researchers should be valued as equal knowledge co-generator partners. CE-partners within a rural school had expectations of material gain as part of their experience of participating in this CE-partnership. CE-partners involved in educational psychology (ASL) experienced connectedness and support as a result of participating in the FLY intervention. These CE-partners also experienced FLY relationships as a great platform for establishing bonds, whilst learning from peers.
I theorise the Progressive Global Citizenship conceptual framework as a guide that points towards boundless engagement in the era of globalisation. This suggests that HE-CE should focus on innovative interventions that have support structures aimed at establishing connections across socio-economic, cultural, racial and academic backgrounds. Therefore, I propose that HE should make a concerted effort to enhance insight, awareness, reflection, exploration and develop critical consciousness among global citizens. In my view, this calls for innovation that moves away from traditional practices in global citizenship. HE should strive to partner with many role-players as an alternative way of broadening the scope towards understanding and enriching CE interventions.