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Urban Communities and Neighbourhoods Case Study: East Scarborough, CITC01

The course is designed as an introduction to the theory and practice of participatory action research with an emphasis on youth participation and questions of neighbourhood wellbeing, social and spatial justice, and community development. The geographical focus is the East Scarborough community, in close proximity to the U of T Scarborough campus. The course is offered in partnership and collaboration with a local non-profit organization such as the East Scarborough Storefront or the Malvern Family Resource Centre.

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Students from CITC01


City Studies Program, Department of Human Geography, University of Toronto Scarborough

Instructor / Program Coordinator

Ahmed Allahwala, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, Department of Human Geography and Special Advisor on Experiential Education, Office of the Vice-Principal Academic & Dean, University of Toronto Scarborough


Community-Based Project, Placement, or Partnership; Community-Engaged Research; Curricular Community-Engaged Learning; Organization-Partnered Research

Information for Interested Students

Visit the University of Toronto Scarborough’s Department of Human Geography’s City Studies page focused on Community Development to find additional information about this course, including eligibility requirements and when this course will be offered.

Benefits to Students

The course introduces students to the theory and practice of (youth-led) participatory action research with a strong emphasis on ethical and value-based research praxis. Students learn that the process of knowledge production is equally important as the final product of a research project. Practical skills and value disposition acquired in the course will be beneficial for any community engaged practice upon graduation.

Benefits to External Partners and the Community

Ajeev Bhatia, long-time community activist in East Scarborough, reflects on working with U of T Scarborough through this course: “The in-kind support of University of Toronto staff and professor support have been invaluable. Universities have access to resources which can be leveraged (and shifted) to support grassroots organizing in enormous ways.”

Benefits to the University

Through the groundbreaking work of my colleague Dr. Susannah Bunce in developing a sustainable partnership with the East Scarborough Storefront, the Department of Human Geography has been recognized as a leader in community-engaged learning at UTSC. The success of my course rests on those strong foundations.

Advice for Faculty and Staff Interested in Creating a Similar Experiential Learning Opportunity

The key to success in community-engaged research involving undergraduate students is investing in sustainable relationships and a sincere commitment to reciprocity, equity, and attentive listening. Achieving positive change is a long-term process and usually goes beyond what can be achieved in a single semester. Managing expectations and clearly defining what can be reasonably be achieved in 12 weeks is therefore crucial. Don’t forget to celebrate your accomplishments and honour everyone’s contributions!