Community-Engaged Scholarship

Adopt the Principles of Ethical Practice


A growing number of university departments, programs, and initiatives are beginning to articulate a commitment to a common set of principles for ethical practice in their community-engaged teaching, learning, research, and service. This document outlines the origin of these principles of practice, provides examples of how units are adopting and implementing them, and articulates a call to action for the principles to be widely adopted and implemented across the university to ensure the highest ethical standards in our community-engaged endeavors.


Call to Action


Adopt the Principles of Ethical Practice for Community-Engaged Learning, Research, and Service

As Northwestern continues to grow in its commitment to global and community engagement, it is incumbent upon NU faculty, staff, and students to operate at the highest levels of ethical standards. A common commitment to ethical and equitable approaches to community engaged learning, research, and service is necessary to ensure that Northwestern truly lives into the notion of higher education as a public good. By setting such aspirations and expectations clearly, and creating mechanisms for their enforcement, Northwestern can set a standard of excellence that will serve both as a motivating and educating force for students and as a model to other universities. Therefore, every community-engaged department and unit is encouraged to adopt or sign onto the Principles of Ethical Practice for Community-Engaged Learning, Research and Service.


What it means to sign on/adopt the Principles of Ethical Practice:

By signing on or adopting these principles, you acknowledge your agreement to the following:

  1. These principles adequately articulate/represent our aspirations for community-engaged learning, research and service and express the expectations and commitments of university-community partnerships pursued by our office/program/center/department. We embrace these principles as a standard of ethical practice in our shared work at Northwestern.
  2. We will utilize these principles to inform adjustments to our programming and practice as it relates to community partnership.
  3. We will seek opportunities to make these principles actionable in coordination with efforts to build a community of practice in this space. We will provide 1-2 examples of how we live out these principles in our work in order to generate and contribute to the sharing of examples of effective and ethical practice pursued at Northwestern. We will provide 1 – 2 aspirations or plans for implementing these principles beyond our current practice.


Units that have adopted the Principles of Ethical Practice to assess, inform, and guide their community-engaged work.

The principles are being adapted to fit the particular needs of a program or department, and are being used to support the work of a wide range of stakeholders, including faculty, staff, and students. While these principles are in line with those being developed by peer institutions, we hope that they can evolve, improve, and become progressively more effective through (1) ongoing processes of consultation and feedback with key community partners both at home and abroad, (2) the development of specific procedures for adapting and putting them into practice in the full range of relevant work by Northwestern faculty, staff, and students.

Office of Undergraduate Research

Advisors who coach and mentor undergraduates through the process of developing a research proposal use the Principles of Ethical Practice to guide conversation and ask critical questions throughout the students’ proposal process. In awarding research grants, the Principles are used as an additional rubric to ensure that only proposals meeting the ethical standards are funded.

The Pre-K – 20+ Working Group

In an effort to be more strategic, thoughtful, and effective in Northwestern’s engagement in the PreK-20+ education space, the Working Group is using the Principles of Ethical Practice to frame conversations about our shared values and goals.

The Buffett Institute for Global Studies

The Buffett Institute is utilizing the Principles of Ethical Practice as a companion to the Fair Trade Learning standards in order to shape a more community-driven praxis in our global service learning and community-based research programs. In April 2018, the Buffett Institute will host a community partner forum with 20 of our international partners to build community, strengthen and innovate our joint programming and set mutually identified and beneficial goals in our co-educational partnerships over the next five years. The Principles will also be used as a teaching tool in our pre-departure seminar and other course-based and co-curricular student preparation (CBR, student group advising, etc.)

The Office of Community Education Partnerships in the School of Education and Social Policy

OCEP holds data partnership agreements with the Chicago Public Schools, and Districts 65 & 202 in Evanston. Faculty who wish to use these data or enter into partnerships via OCEP must meet the standards set by the Principles of Ethical Practice. The OCEP staff is working with Dean Figlio to engage all SESP faculty in conversation about the Principles through workshops and trainings in the coming year.

Neighborhood and Community Relations

 As the most outwardly facing unit in Evanston, Alan Anderson, Executive Director, is using the Principles of Ethical Practice as a way to talk about how Northwestern wishes to engage in our community. The Principles provide clarity and transparency about our intentions, standards of practice, and aspirations for engagement, and serve as a lens for communications about potential partnerships.

Leadership Development & Community Engagement

In this Student Affairs unit, the Principles of Ethical Practice are being used as a lens, rubric, and standard for the development of all community partnership work. Additionally, the principles will be used in the training and support of undergraduate registered student organizations that have a community-engaged mission. Student leaders of these organizations will be introduced to the principles and guided through a process to assess the practices of their organizations, develop goals to improve their practices, and foster a culture of commitment to the principles among their members. The Principles will also be used as a rubric for the awarding of grants supporting the activities of community-engaged student organizations.


To adopt the CES Principles of Ethical Practice in your department, please register here


Adopt the Principles of Ethical Practice for Community-Engaged Scholarship at Northwestern

CES Principles of Ethical Practice Worksheet