Additional Reading

Our work at SLS is informed by the larger national and global fields in which we work, including their scholarship and the conversations, teaching, research, and practice of both our colleagues and ourselves in these fields. Specifically, we are engaged in and influenced by work taking place related to five themes, listed below. For example, we draw on asset-based approaches to inform our work with faculty, students, and partners, and we use recent scholarship around critical service learning to shape both how we think about the role of service learning in the curriculum and how we build meaningful community engagement experiences for students. The centrality of networks to our partnership work is evident in this list, as is is our emphasis on equity and social change. In each section, we provide brief annotations of some of the publications that are most influential in the field and/or have been most influential in our work. We hope that you will be intrigued by a few of these publications and explore them further.


Theme 1: Asset-Based Community Development

Hirsch, J. & Winter, A. (2014, January-February). Engaging Diverse Communities in Climate Action: Lessons from Chicago. Solutions, 5(1), 35-39. Retrieved from

SLS’ founding director, Jennifer Hirsch, is nationally and internationally known for her work as a scholar-practitioner engaging communities and universities in sustainability and climate action using an asset-based community engagement approach. In this article, Hirsch and Winter – a former colleague from The Field Museum of Natural History – discuss their work as consultants to the City of Chicago, engaging four communities from across the city in implementing the Chicago Climate Action Plan in different, culturally-driven ways that built on their community assets to address community concerns and simultaneously advance the City’s strategies to tackle climate change. See more publications and presentations about Dr. Hirsch’s work here.

Kretzmann, J.P., & McKnight, J.L. (1993). Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community's Assets. ACTA Publications.

Asset-based Community Development – commonly referred to as “ABCD” - is an approach to working with communities starting with their assets, or strengths, rather than their deficits or problems, and engaging community leaders and residents in envisioning and building the community they want to live in. This approach was largely developed and popularized by The ABCD Institute, formerly housed at Northwestern University and now located at DePaul University in Chicago, together with their affiliated “faculty.” This book, written by ABCD Institute founders John McKnight and Jody Kretzmann, is basically the Bible of the ABCD field of practice. Based on McKnight’s and Kretzmann’s research into successful community-building initiatives across the U.S., it introduces the basics of ABCD and, as a workbook, provides hands-on exercises for identifying and mapping community assets. Fun fact: the book is fondly referred to by affiliated faculty and many ABCD practitioners as “the green book” due to its green cover. 

Theme 2: Re-Orienting Engineering Education for Social Justice and Sustainable Development

Bridger, J.C. & Luloff, A.E. (1999). Toward an interactional approach to sustainable community development. Journal of Rural Studies, 15, 377-387.

This article applies concepts of community to sustainable development and lays out criteria and a conceptual framework for achieving sustainability at the level of local communities. It was crucial in helping us develop our approach to sustainable community development presented in this Partnership Strategy.

Leydens, J. A., Lucena, J. C., & Nieusma, D. (2014, June). What is design for social justice. ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, 26, 24.1368.1 - 24.1368.30. Retrieved from

In this paper, Leydens, Lucena and Nieusma offer a cogent overview of four forms of design, in order to introduce and contextualize “design for social justice.”  They cover four forms of design: design for technology, HCD for users, HDC for communities, and design for social justice.   The authors explore where and how social justice has been integrated into or left entirely out of design contexts; they target design within engineering education and lay out ways for scholars and teachers to bring social justice substantively into design education.  

Lucena, J., Schneider, J., & Leydens, Jon A. (2010). Engineering and Sustainable Community Development. Morgan & Claypool Publishers. Retrieved from

Lucena, Schneider and Leydens’s text is a touchstone for scholar-practitioners and teachers seeking guidance and two excellent case studies on community-engaged engineering projects. Lucena et al helpfully include an overview of engineering as related to the histories of colonialism and the politics of international development, helping readers and students to understand the complex legacies of engineering projects executed by Westerners in the “developing” world. They offer many tools for preparing engineers to work with and listen to community members. Crucially, they include student reactions to and reflections on taking a collaborative approach that centers on the expertise that already resides in every community.

Ottinger, G. (2011). Rupturing Engineering Education: Opportunities for Transforming Expert Identities through Community-Based Projects. Technoscience and Environmental Justice: Expert Cultures in a Grassroots Movement. MIT Press, 229-248.

Scholar Gwen Ottinger points toward the constituting and mobilizing of “expertise” as key to intervening in traditional relationships between universities and communities and between students and knowledge production. In this article, Ottinger argues that intentionally sharing expertise produces new ways of interacting and collaborating outside of a client-consultant or client-provider model. Challenging the widely-held notion that scientific knowledge is “predictable and enduring” and instead asserting its mutability as a “cultural creation, made and remade through the daily practices of scientists and engineers,” Ottinger builds her argument that engineers can “find room to maneuver” and refashion their relationship to knowledge, to problem-solving, and to the communities with which they work.  

Theme 3: Networks for Social Impact

Fadeeva, Z., Galkute, L., Chhokar, K. (2018). Academia and Communities: Engaging for Change - Learning Contributions of Regional Centres of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development. Tokyo: United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability. Retrieved from

This online book includes case studies from 17 Regional Centres of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development (RCEs) around the world describing their work to advance Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in their regions, as part of the Global RCE Network coordinated by United Nations University. The Foreword introduces the structure and purpose of the RCEs and the importance of working through multi-stakeholder networks to create regional change. The Introduction discusses the meaning, goals, and learning competencies of ESD – including the ways in which ESD is intended to transform higher education institutions themselves. With SLS being a co-founder of RCE Greater Atlanta, we have found this publication invaluable in helping us both connect with other RCEs and start to envision how our work on sustainability, and through RCE Greater Atlanta and the Global RCE Network, might significantly impact our institution in the future.

Plastrik, P., Taylor, M., & Cleveland, J. (2014). Connecting to Change the World: Harnessing the Power of Networks for Social Impact. Island Press.

This practical book, written by three veteran practitioners in network consulting, describes why and how to establish and run networks for social impact and provides case studies of successful social impact networks around the country, both sustainability-related and otherwise. It is particularly helpful in thinking through the differences between a network and an organization and how and when network structures in particular can advance social change in ways that organizations cannot.

Theme 4: Service-Learning in Higher Education

Bringle, R. G., & Hatcher, J. A. (1995). A service-learning curriculum for faculty. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 2(1), 112-122. Retrieved from:

Bringle and Hatcher, long-time leaders in service learning research, offer that faculty development is key to robust and high-impact service learning curriculum. In this piece they argue for the importance of supporting and preparing faculty to “implement new pedagogy” that engages service learning experiences and integrates them well into academic courses.  The series of faculty workshops that they propose and describe supports faculty new to service learning in building syllabi and service learning experiences that are founded on best practices and relevant research, as well as offering insight about the connection between faculty development and the institutionalization of service learning.

Brundiers, K., & Beaudoin, F. (2017). A Guide for Applied Sustainability Learning Projects: Advancing Sustainability Outcomes on Campus and in the Community. Retrieved from

Brundiers and Beaudoin, through their respective work at Arizona State University, which houses one of the leading sustainability programs in the nation, and Portland State which boasts a deep and fruitful sustainability and community engagement partnership with the City of Portland, have created a compelling and thorough guide to building programs for real-world sustainability projects. Through laying out distinct stages, they invite readers to locate their own work within a development continuum, and they discuss the benefits and challenges of project-based learning with outside partners, offering substantial insight into the program infrastructure that makes such projects successful.

Chupp, M. G., & Joseph, M. L. (2010). Getting the most out of service learning: Maximizing student, university and community impact. Journal of Community Practice, 18(2-3), 190-212. Retrieved from:

Service learning scholars Chupp and Joseph offer a helpful overview of the service learning field, and its major trends and shifts (such as “experiential” and “social justice” service learning) over the past three decades. They persuasively argue that “service learning should seek to promote social change through authentic relationships and impacts at three levels: the student, the academic institution, and the community.” In their case study of the Case Western Reserve School of Social Work, they unfold how this three-level model informs a service learning program based on strengthening relationships with Cleveland neighborhoods surrounding campus.

McNall, M., Barnes-Najor, J., Brown, R., Doberneck, D., & Fitzgerald, H. (2015). Systemic Engagement: Universities as Partners in Systemic Approaches to Community Change. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 19(1), 7-32. Retrieved from

McNall et al focus in this piece on how to shift the approach of universities from “isolated” to “systemic” impact, suggesting that it will be impossible to effect change on broad scale challenges without the leverage provided by networks of diverse partners sharing a focus. The authors outline six principles of systemic impact (systems thinking; collaborative inquiry; support for ongoing learning; emergent design; multiple strands of inquiry and action; and transdisciplinary learning) and use the example of Wiba Anung partnerships, forged between Michigan State University, Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan, Bay Mills CommunityCollege, and nine Michigan tribes, an alliance formed to address entrenched educational inequality among white and native children in Michigan.

Mitchell, Tania D. (Spring 2008). Traditional vs. Critical Service-Learning: Engaging the Literature to Differentiate Two Models. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 14(2), 50-65. Retrieved from:

In this important article that had a huge impact on the service learning field, Mitchell challenges the ways that “traditional service learning” leaves structural inequality unexamined, failing to guide students toward an understanding of its roots. What Mitchell calls “a social change orientation” and an aim to “redistribute power” distinguish critical service learning from traditional service learning.

Tinkler, Alan, Barri Tinkler, Ethan Hausman, and Gabriella Tufo Strouse. (2014). Key Elements of Effective Service-Learning Partnerships from the Perspective of Community Partners. Partnerships: A Journal of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement, 5(2), 137-152. Retrieved from:

This collaboratively written article helpfully urges readers on the instructor/professor side to consider what makes for a successful and reciprocal relationship for the community partner. In concert with their own local partners, Tinkler et al identify six main characteristics of successful partnerships, pointing out that the development of an “effective relationship” is different from the creation of an effective deliverable. Effective relationships are the product of intentional work, which places considerations such as partner resources and partner mission at the center of relationship-building between instructors and community organizations.

Theme 5: Sustainable Development - Equity & Higher Education

Agyeman, J. (2011). Equity? That’s not an issue for us, we’re here to save the world. Retrieved from

There are many publications explaining the centrality of equity to sustainability. Julian Agyeman, a Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tuft University, developed the influential concept of “just sustainabilities” and has become one of the most well-known scholars in this area among sustainability practitioners. In addition to his scholarly publications, he blogs about equity and sustainability and regularly presents at practitioner conferences around the U.S. and the world. This blog post is one of his most succinct publications on the importance of equity in advancing sustainability and also references a major literature review related to equity and its societal impacts overall.  

Trencher, G., Yarime, M., McCormick, K. B., Doll, C. N., & Kraines, S. B. (2013). Beyond the third mission: Exploring the emerging university function of co-creation for sustainability. Science and Public Policy, 41(2), 151-179. Retrieved from:

In this article, the authors argue that there is an emerging new role for universities around the world, surfacing in response to the global sustainability crisis: acting as conveners of multi-stakeholder, regional collaborations aimed at advancing sustainable development in the university’s geographical region. Based on research into universities around the world that are assuming this role, the article lays out a conceptual framework and then presents two in depth case studies, one from the U.S. and one from Europe.

UNESCO (2016). Education 2030: Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Retrieved from

Advancing SDG 4: Quality Education is the central purpose of the work of all RCE networks. This document from the United Nations is a thorough description of SDG 4 and its targets and also lays out recommendations for implementation. Importantly, Target 4.7 is the target most related to higher education institutions: “By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.”

Vashi, S (2019). All Eyes on Equity: How nonprofits are mobilizing to solve Atlanta's structural inequities.  Retrieved from

Atlanta routinely ranks among the nation's most unequal cities.  But across the city, organizations and funders have found new momentum to change the narrative, and the unequal systems.