Community outreach and engagement at UAB is much like an elephant in the wild: Everyone can agree it’s mammoth, but no one knows exactly how much it weighs.
That will soon change.
About two years ago a community engagement task force was created to inventory outreach programs, survey employees and students about their service activities and meet with community partners to discuss their goals, needs and obstacles to working with UAB. The 2017 surveys and focus groups informed the strategic objectives for the community engagement pillar of the university’s strategic plan and provided insights — many favorable and some less so:
- We have a history and reputation for service in the community and beyond.
- We are active and visible in the community.
- We can be disjointed in our efforts and sometimes difficult to navigate.
- We need a more coherent message.
“From this we developed three goals,” said Emily Wykle, project director in the Office of the President. “We needed to reduce barriers to community engagement, connect university expertise and effort with community needs and partners and improve our ability to communicate quickly and directly.”
|"BlazerPulse will enable us to connect dots, fill in gaps and support internal and community partners by creating a central place for seeking, fulfilling and documenting volunteer service."|
At the center of UAB’s new community engagement strategy is BlazerPulse, an online platform to help identify, organize, promote and quantify activities ranging from volunteer projects to service-learning, community-based participatory research and institutional outreach, says Wykle, who is leading the implementation. The site is live but still being populated by university groups and community partners; an official launch is planned mid-January 2019.
“BlazerPulse will enable us to connect dots, fill in gaps and support internal and community partners by creating a central place for seeking, fulfilling and documenting volunteer service by faculty, staff and students,” Wykle said. “It also will simplify access for community partners who had difficulty finding a single point of contact — a front door — when they needed our help.
“During the past several months we identified liaisons on campus and long-time community partners and helped them establish their presence on BlazerPulse. We will be able to start offering opportunities and capturing data with the beginning of the spring semester,” Wykle said, “and we will continue to provide training and assistance to bring all eligible partners on the platform in 2019.”
Built on the givepulse.com platform, BlazerPulse enables users to create and manage communities and track, measure and share their impact. Its ease of use also will provide other benefits:
- Make it easier to participate by providing multiple entry points online
- Identify and support leadership potential on campus and in the community
- Offer interactivity to nurture new groups and power players
- Showcase and promote programs, events and opportunities by date, area of interest, location and more
- Help reward contributors and acknowledge partners
“In short, BlazerPulse will enrich the student experience, extend the reach of our faculty and staff expertise and build the capacity of community organizations to improve the quality of life in Alabama and beyond,” Wykle said.