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What is CURE?

The Community-University Research Exchange (CURE) is an organization that promotes community-driven social justice research at Concordia, McGill and in Montreal more generally. In addition to organizing workshops and events, we host a database of dozens of community projects that students can do for credit (either as a term paper, final project, independent study or other course requirement).

Our goal is to break down the walls between the university and the communities that surround it, and foster meaningful collaborations between students and communities working for social change. For more information, check out our mandate.

How does it work?

Grassroots community groups working on different social justice issues around Montreal can submit research & project requests to CURE. The projects are often something that would greatly help the group in the work they do, but that they haven’t had the capacity to do themselves.

Students are encouraged to take on a community project to fulfill a requirement in a course they are already taking. CURE can help with the logistics of this. That way students get credit and for the work they do and at the end of the day their work goes outside of the university to directly help communities organizing for self-determination in the wider city. Students can also take on a CURE project as an independent study or internship requirement. In a couple of cases, faculty members have even adapted their course outline to have an entire class work on a CURE project. More info below…

How do I get class credit for working on a CURE project?

CURE helps students get credit for working on a community project by negotiating within existing academic structures. Concretely, this means that we do a lot of targeted outreach to professors to tell them about CURE and get their support…

Professors are often willing to let students work on a CURE project in place of a pre-existing requirement in their course outline, such as a term paper or final project. Professors can also help students get credit by supervising an independent study based around a CURE project, or incorporating CURE directly into their course outline from the beginning of the semester.

Getting credit can often be as simple as talking to your professor. If they are hesitant about or unfamiliar with CURE, we can also meet with them to explain how we work and help encourage them to allow their students to work with CURE for credit. If you know of a professor who might be interested in CURE or want to do a CURE project but aren’t sure how to go about it, please get in touch with one of our coordinators. We are always happy to answer questions, set up a meeting on campus or make a classroom visit.

What do you mean by community-driven social justice research?

Our definition of research is knowledge work – ways of understanding ourselves and the world around us. In addition to collecting and analysing data, that could mean producing art, technology, engaging in mutual aid, storytelling and many things not traditionally validated as ‘research’ by institutions.When we say ‘community-driven social justice research’ we mean knowledge that comes from the grassroots up.

Too often academics do research about different communities from within the ivory tower. We argue that the needs of communities around Montreal and beyond should drive and define the work that we do at the university, and that research should further goals of social justice and community accountability.

For more info on community-based social justice research, check out our full article.

What are the requirements for working on a CURE project?

Since a core principle of CURE is that community groups define their own needs, requirements for different projects can vary. Broadly, students should have an interest in social justice and a commitment to following through with the project. If you’re having trouble sorting through the projects in our database or want more info on the requirements of any project, please get in touch with us. We really strive to provide as much support as possible and are happy to help you find a project or answer any questions you might have.

Working on a CURE project often involves working with and for marginalized communities and with groups who are largely volunteer-driven and have low capacity. Because of this it’s extremely important to be considerate of the effects your approach can have on people’s lives. Taking steps towards accountability and relationship-building such as maintaining clear lines of communication, making sure you complete the project as agreed upon, and starting to work on it earlier than that last-minute term paper you wrote in the library last semester can help ensure that everyone benefits from the collaboration.

CURE seeks to make links between the university and the community that are mutually beneficial. That said, the idea at the core of our mandate is that the university should be in service of the communities that surround it, and the resources and knowledge that circulate in the academic sphere should be accessible. Keeping constantly in mind that your work should be driven by the self-determined needs of the community and not simply by a desire for experience or to check off a requirement on a transcript is essential to maintaining the integrity of the work. As an organization composed of students and community members, we say this for ourselves as much as anyone.

For detailed info on how to apply to work on a project please see below.

How does CURE benefit students?

While we believe community needs should drive what we do, we also seek to expand opportunities for students to do meaningful, concrete work. We recognize that the university can become a bubble that not only excludes those without access but cuts off people within the system from the reality of what’s happening on the ground. We seek to bridge that divide in a responsible and mutually transformative way.

Through our own experiences, we also know that being a student can at times feel exploitative or dismissive. We hope that working with CURE will be empowering and validating to both graduates and undergraduates at varying levels of skill and experience. Especially as an undergraduate student it’s easy to feel like the work you doesn’t go further than your own hard drive or the professor’s desk. CURE gives students the opportunity to get outside of the classroom and contribute to positive social change in concrete ways. We work hard to collaborate with professors and help students get credit for that work.

CURE also gives students the opportunity to build relationships with different communities, groups and organizations in the wider city in a way that feels relevant to their interests and field of study.

How does CURE relate to different faculties and departments?

CURE is committed to offering projects across a wide range of issues and disciplines. We believe that the myriad skills that students learn at university can do so much good out in the community.  That said, we recognize that the majority of projects currently in our database relate most closely to departments in the social sciences. This is something we are actively working to change.

Having secured a stable source of funding only this year, we are working to expand into the faculties of Fine Arts, Engineering & Computer Science, Business and beyond. We’ve already done outreach to professors in Accounting, Theatre, Dentistry (at McGill) and other departments and faculties who are interested in helping us to integrate community-driven work into those arenas.

We see so much possibility – apps for social justice, interactive mapping, community murals, partnerships with local artists, budget and fundraising support, social economy development, accessible dentistry and more…

If you’re a student and would like to help integrate CURE into your faculty or department, please get in touch with the coordinator at your school. We are excited to collaborate in creative and innovative ways. So much of what we do is relationship-building at the community and campus levels and we are always looking for people with knowledge and experience in different disciplines to give us their input.

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Interested in doing a CURE project? Here’s what you need to do in 6 steps:

Follow this link for more detailed student guidelines.

STEP 1: Choose a project from our database and determine if you’ll complete the project for credit or non-credit.

Because of the wide range of diverse work required by various community and activist groups, different arrangements will be appropriate for different projects. Some projects will work better as term papers, whereas projects requiring a higher time commitment may work better as an independent study, internship, or thesis. If you are unsure about the appropriate arrangement for your project of interest, please consult with an advisor, your professor, or contact CURE for guidance.

STEP 2: Complete and submit the Student Researcher Application

STEP 3: After we receive your application, we will communicate with the community group to inform them that you are interested in working on their research request or project. (Please note that for confidentiality purposes, we do not list community group contact information on the CURE website)

STEP 4: An initial meeting will be arranged between yourself, the community group and CURE. During this meeting the terms of the research will be determined and a mutual agreement contract will be signed by all parties.

STEP 5: The research process begins! You will communicate regularly with your community group point person throughout the duration of your research and contact CURE periodically to inform us of your progress and/or to request information, guidance or help.

STEP 6: Submit a copy of your work to your course instructor, to the community group and  to CURE.  If you are doing the project for credit, note that depending on the requirements of the project and the arrangement you have with your professor, you may want to think about submitting two different versions of your work – one that is tailored to the community requirements and one that is adapted to an academic context.  Because of this, and because of the challenges of reconciling outside timelines with an academic calendar,we recommend applying to work on your CURE project early in the semester to ensure you have enough time to complete it well.