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Lessons from a team of bloggers on community engagement

September 16, 2021 Leave a comment

John B. Stephens and Nikki Abija


In December 2014 a group of 12 people started a blog to explore different experiences and views about community engagement. They (endnote 1) aimed to do something which appeared unique. Many blogs have a theme of advocacy on behalf of a community or organization, or on an important social or political issue. This effort was designed to learn from each other over an extended time through interactions among three kinds of perspectives: grass-roots community people, local government employees, and academics who study and teach about community engagement.  The goal was an honest, respectful online conversation about various civic and community topics with moderated comments to build a string of ideas and reactions from an online audience.

This article summarizes what was done and lessons from this blogging experiment. The blog is the Community Engagement Learning Exchange (CELE), which lives at  In  fall 2019, Dr. Rick Morse and Dr. John B. Stephens, the blog’s co-administrators, paused the blog to assess its accomplishments and shortcomings. From September 2020 – April 2021, Nikki Abija, a UNC-Chapel Hill Master of Public Administration student, joined Stephens to assess the five years of CELE’s activity.

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