Finer Details About CUP

1. What is CUP?

The Community-University Partnership for the Study of Children, Youth, and Families (CUP) is an organization that facilitates collaborations between the University of Alberta (U of A) and the broader community for the purpose of advancing knowledge, policies, and practices for the benefit of children, youth, and families.

2. Why is CUP important?

Communities and universities have many shared interests. Both want to improve knowledge, to share knowledge in ways that make a difference, and to contribute to evidence-based policies and practices that optimally benefit children and families. Both have expertise and resources for pursuing these interests and both recognize that their expertise and resources are incomplete and limited in important ways. Members of the Edmonton community and the U of A generated the idea of CUP because they realized that if they were both to pursue their goals responsibly, they needed to share expertise and resources in areas of common concern.

3. What is the scope of CUP’s work? How does CUP work?

CUP undertakes projects and core activities related to children, youth, and families that fit within the broad terms of its mission. Typically these projects involve: 

  • Research and evaluation, to advance knowledge and to contribute to improving policies and practices
  • Knowledge mobilization, to improve the ways in which policies and practices are influenced by, and influence, research and evaluation, and/or
  • Lifelong learning, to increase the expertise and capacity of people at the University and in its surrounding communities for advancing the objectives embodied in CUP’s mission.

Core activities include administrative and coordinating functions fundamental to the goals and operation of CUP such as developing new projects, consulting, brokering, and building capacity. CUP serves as a facilitator and leader in developing collaborative projects and activities. CUP provides advice, brokers relations and resources, develops projects and assembles research teams, provides direct leadership and supervision on projects, assists with knowledge-sharing initiatives, develops community workshops and other learning programs, promotes the development of community-based research on campus and in the community, and more.

4. How does CUP select its activities and projects?

Decisions about how to focus its energies are made by the Secretariat and guided, especially in cases of major importance, by input from the Steering Committee. The decision to pursue a particular project or activity depends on: 

  • the extent to which the project or activity is consistent with CUP’s mission,
  • whether CUP’s Secretariat has the capacity to develop the project or activity, and
  • whether resources (usually expertise and funding) are available or could be developed.

5. What makes a project a CUP project?

There is no clear answer to this question because the involvement of CUP’s staff varies from project to project. Three questions are useful for assessing whether a project is a CUP project: 

  1. Was the project developed by and is it being led by in-house CUP academics?
  2. Are members of CUP’s staff managing the project (e.g., research coordination, human resources, and financials)?
  3. Does the Principal Investigator consider it one of CUP’s projects? CUP is involved in many projects that may not be considered primarily as “CUP Projects,” in which CUP nevertheless plays an important role. 

To read more on CUP’s project, visit our Research Tab

6. Who is responsible for CUP? Who “owns” CUP?

Although the U of A—and in particular the Faculty of Extension—acts as a host for CUP, the responsibility for CUP’s activities and continuation lies with the people from the U of A and the broader community who choose to collaborate in service of CUP’s mission. These people and their organizations “own” CUP in the sense that they make a shared investment, they contribute to CUP’s mission and activities, and they expect mutually beneficial outcomes. Functionally, they are represented in CUP’s Steering Committee, which provides guidance, ensures financial support, and works to strengthen links between the U of A and communities. CUP’s staff (Secretariat), guided by the Steering Committee, develops and carries out CUP activities. 

7. What is community?

Community generally refers to a self-defined group with a shared sense of identity, and so the term is difficult to define without reference to a particular context. In CUP’s particular context, community is often used as a shorthand designation to refer to groups external to the University of Alberta, while fully recognizing that the University is itself a set of communities that are part of and overlap with numerous other communities. At CUP, community typically refers to the agencies and organizations that develop and implement policies, programs, and practices that are intended to serve children, youth, and families. CUP also is open to working with members of other types of communities. 

8. Does CUP work for the University of Alberta or for the community?

CUP does not work solely for the U of A or for the community. CUP straddles the community and University and is intended to provide a means of bridging the gaps that sometimes emerge between community and university, as well as between those who seek to create and share knowledge about the development of children, youth, and families.

9. How does CUP serve the community? How does CUP serve the University?

Bridging the gaps between community and university is difficult not because of a lack of shared interest or commitment, but rather because the resources required for bridging—time, expertise, knowledge of community and university issues—are in short supply. CUP seeks to provide the resources that are necessary for supporting sustained, productive interactions between the community and the university. CUP enlists the aid and resources of the University whenever possible to help community agencies and organizations address issues that overlap with those of members of the University. CUP is guided by community interests as it facilitates research and evaluation, mobilizes knowledge, and establishes programs for lifelong learning. In effect, CUP helps to raise the profile of community issues on the agenda of the U of A. 

Students who work on CUP projects typically interact with community and university partners from diverse and interdisciplinary backgrounds, gaining a research experience that is distinctive and informative (Discovery Learning). CUP provides the links and supporting structures that are necessary for university and community partners to work together, to inform each other, and to create innovative research projects, such as Families First Edmonton, that simply would not have occurred otherwise (Incubating Scholarship). The committed, continued engagement of numerous community and university partners, including CUP’s Steering Committee, is the very force that created CUP and thereby transformed how the community and university work together on topics related to children, youth, and families.

10. How do people get involved in CUP? What does it mean to “get involved” in CUP?

CUP does not have a formal membership process and so anyone interested in CUP activities can contact our office to discuss projects or opportunities (780-492-6177 or cup@ualberta.ca). CUP opportunities include research projects, research teams, our listserv, committee work, employment, student internships, knowledge sharing, learning programs, and more.

11. How is CUP funded?

CUP receives funding from a variety of sources, including the University, foundations, and municipal and provincial governments, and federal and provincial granting agencies. Typically, core activities are funded through direct donations to CUP, whereas projects are funded with specific grants.

12. Does CUP engage in fee-for-service activity?

In principle, CUP engages in activities (consulting, brokering, leading projects) free as a service to all members of the university and community. In practice, we are often limited by capacity and thus donations, grants, and contracts are used to increase capacity to meet demand.