Engaged Learning and Change through Undergraduate Research: A Case Study of the Heart of Gold Community Empowerment Project


The focus of this paper is to describe a best-practice undergraduate research-involved case study of the Heart of Gold Rural Community Empowerment Project (HG) that has demonstrated significant gains in social and economic capital over the last ten years. The HG is an international community-university research alliance between the Farm and Agro-tourism Association of Los Santos (FAALS) cooperative in Costa Rica and Vancouver Island University (VIU) in Canada that uses cooperative inquiry methods for effective sharing of local knowledge, and knowledge exchange and mobilization to meet small-scale farming community needs. Overall the project focuses on strengthening small-scale farming livelihood security through innovative diversification of farm product (direct-trade organic-in-the shade coffee), and agro- and eco-tourism business development that helps to stabilize small-scale farming economies. More specifically, the project seeks to create new modalities of research collaborations involving organizations not often associated with research on international development; to influence policy and practice through researchers sharing knowledge with community associations about development challenges; and, to improve learning capacity by creating educational platforms for identifying solutions to livelihood threats. The provision of planning and research support for agricultural cooperatives can be critically important since it equips communities to confront and deal with socio-economic and environmental change, and to create community resilience. It is intended that the HG will generate knowledge and information that has applicability for other rural communities in developing countries facing similar social and economic challenges, and demonstrate the value of community-university alliances that involve undergraduates in action research.

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Robinson, D. , Styles, J. , Evernden, N. and Kirkham, K. (2013) Engaged Learning and Change through Undergraduate Research: A Case Study of the Heart of Gold Community Empowerment Project. Creative Education, 4, 110-116. doi: 10.4236/ce.2013.47A2013.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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