Between 2002 and 2018, at a time when UK universities were being increasingly measured in economic and financial terms, Staffordshire University established a dedicated public engagement unit. Staffed by an experienced team of “pracademics” (Posner, 2009), the Creative Communities Unit (CCU) engaged with community members and voluntary organizations through teaching, research, and consultancy. Underpinning CCU practice was a clear set of principles influenced by those of community development, including participation, inclusion, and action-driven practice. However, despite strong community connections the work of the unit remained isolated with little coordination for public engagement at a strategic level in the university. This chapter charts the work of the CCU over its lifespan and its influence on a strategically embedded Connected Communities Framework through which civic engagement is supported across the institution. It explores how the alignment of grass roots activity through the CCU, shifts in UK policy and a clear, institutional strategic vision for civic engagement enabled the move from public engagement as a small team activity to an institutional commitment. It concludes with a reflection on the enabling conditions that supported the journey toward a civic university.

DOI: 10.1108/S2055-364120200000023008

ISBN: 9781839094392, 9781839094385