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Center for Equitable Family & Community Well-Being

Redefining University-Community Engagement

In a dynamic, post-industrial multi-cultural society, it is easy for systems and policies to evolve in such a way that they become misaligned. Similarly, with a history of racism and growing class divides, some families and communities receive inadequate attention and investment and find themselves disconnected from the resources and opportunities of their surrounding economy. Successful responses are not easy or guaranteed, but there are occasions when policymakers make an appropriate fix or when grassroots leaders and local champions rally around a promising strategy. The goal of the Center for Equitable Family and Community Well-Being is to encourage and support such win-win efforts by connecting the resources and intellectual strength of the University of Michigan with the passion and social capital of community leaders.

Most importantly, families and communities will be at the heart of our work. The primary criteria for any project work will be that it explicitly improve the well-being of families and/or communities and reduce existing inequities. 

Although there are many partnerships and models of engaged research that take place between the University and external individuals or groups, the work is often disconnected, especially as they show up in the Detroit metropolitan area. The methodology introduced here will be intentional about connecting other U of M centers and initiatives around Center projects and associated goals.

Trina Shanks
Professor and Director, Center for Equitable Family & Community Well-Being

Core Values

  • Impact through economic empowerment
  • Impact through results
  • Impact through relationship and resource collaboration


  • To amplify ideas that empower families and communities to thrive.


  • Utilizing collaborative relationships and innovative practice to foster a more equitable distribution of power and resources.

White Paper Series

Working Together to Make Information Accessible: Principles of University-Community Engagement through the Detroit Housing Counseling and Homeownership Project

January 21, 2022

Patrick Meehan, Trina Shanks, David Palmer, Hector Hernandez, Alex Makohn, Lucine Jarrah, Elizabeth Harris

The Center for Equitable Family and Community Well-Being is committed to community-engaged research. In this paper, we explain what that means in practice through our work on the Detroit Housing Counseling and Homeownership Project. Together with community partners, our project team made important information about the state of mortgage financing and homeownership accessible to stakeholders and residents. The project was successful, in particular, for observing four key principles of community-engaged research: (1) equity in the design and distribution of power in the partnership; (2) leverage partners’ strengths; (3) transparency and regular communication; and (4) focus on sustainability and accessibility.

See all White Papers »

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