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Comparing approaches to community-based economic development in two countries

Durham, NC / Durham, UK
Dates May 28 - August 3
Program Focus

Comparing and contrasting approaches to community-based economic development through service partnerships with nonprofits and schools in two similar cities: Durham, NC, and Durham, England.

Curricular Connections: While all students are welcome to apply, this program may be of particular interest to students studying Sociology, Public Policy, Economics, Political Science and Urban Planning. Students interested in community and economic development issues, including affordable housing, access to health care, and a whole range of education issues, will find this program of value. (See additional curricular connection information below.)

Program Leaders
Service Themes
  • Community Development & Outreach
  • Economic & Workforce Development & Social Enterprise
  • Public Policy
  • No Foreign Language Requirement
President Emeritus Richard Brodhead

In 2017, Duke University received a gift from The Duke Endowment to name the DukeEngage-Durham program after President Emeritus Brodhead, commemorating his deep commitment to Durham. “Thanks to this support,” said Brodhead, “Duke students will be able to deliver their classroom knowledge in service to the Durham community and integrate their DukeEngage experiences with their curricular learning.” Read more about Pres. Brodhead’s connection to DukeEngage.

Brodhead DukeEngage-Durham Program Overview

  • Durham, NC – May 28 to July 6, 2019
  • Durham, UK – July 8 to August 4, 2019

The Brodhead DukeEngage-Durham program is a 10-week comparative introduction to community-based, economic development efforts in Durham, NC, and its sister city of Durham, England. Participants serve both communities through structured, immersive and full-time volunteer placement with local nonprofits in both communities. Working in small, cooperative teams, participants will be matched in advance of the program with one agency in NC and one in the UK.

Participants will explore the unique historical background of both communities, which continue to transition from a declining 20th century industrial base (tobacco and textiles in North Carolina; coal mining in England) to a 21st century knowledge‐based economy. DukeEngage‐Durham staff have thoroughly evaluated the volunteer work each student will perform here in the U.S. and in collaboration with our partners at Durham University, the 3rd oldest institution of higher education in England. This program values community building and provides many avenues for program participants to grow. In addition to volunteering alongside the staff of a partner agency, participants will join in a variety of orientations, trainings, readings, special presentations, historical and neighborhood tours, and weekly reflection sessions to deepen their knowledge of both Durham communities and the ways local citizens engage their city.

Student Learning Objectives/Outcomes

By the end of the program, students will:

  • Be more comfortable engaging in and with the Durham community
  • Be able to communicate effectively using writing and speaking skills
  • Strengthen their listening skills during a conversation
  • Be comfortable working with cultures other than their own
  • Learn about the culture of people in Durham, England
  • Be cognizant of different perspectives on international issues
  • Recognize that what they do in their jobs or work might have implications beyond the local community
  • Be concerned about local community issues
  • Make and understand the connection between their academic learning and real-life experiences
  • Strengthen their soft skills and recognize their values in any field of study or career path
  • Have a better understanding of community and economic development and its impacts on society

Service Opportunities

This dual immersion program will allow participants to work with community partner organizations that address economic development in a variety of ways, e.g., through community development, youth savings camps, workforce re-entry, re-training and rehabilitation transitional housing programs, and social services outreach. Once teams have completed their six weeks of service in NC, they will travel to Durham, UK and serve with organizations engaged with similar development issues there, comparing and contrasting the ways in which each community is meeting the challenges of economic redevelopment.

The range of service opportunities will be available on the DukeEngage-Durham page on the Duke Community Service Center website (  Former participants have worked with organizations including:

  • Community Empowerment Fund (CEF): past projects include organizing a landlord roundtable, and financial coaching for individuals transitioning out of homelessness.
  • Durham Literacy Center: past projects include direct tutoring, assisting with daily operation of the DLC’s youth GED program, and developing a community resource guide to help program staff connect adults and youth to community supports.
  • Durham Office of Economic and Workforce Development: past projects include planning a week of training for the summer youth employment program and researching cultural activities to be used for Durham’s Sesquicentennial (150th) Anniversary.
  • Families Moving Forward: past projects include building computer and financial literacy skills of both parents and children transitioning out of homelessness.
  • The Scrap Exchange: past projects include research, development, and implementation of programs organized within the design center and the evolution of the Maker Space.
  • Threshold: past projects include supporting a structured day program for adults with serious mental illness with computer literacy classes to include data entry, internet use, videos, etc.

In Durham, NC, after an initial interview with program staff, participants will interview in person with representatives of up to three nonprofits of interest. Both the participant and an agency representative must agree on the final placement. As community partners’ locations vary throughout Durham, commute times from Central Campus apartments will vary, as will the level of physical activity required for the various volunteer service opportunities. Participants will volunteer a minimum of 40 hours each week at their service site. In Durham, England, matches with partner organizations will be made in advance, based as closely as possible on final service placements in Durham, NC. Students will have information about their placements prior to departure and will receive a general one‐day orientation and overview to the organizations prior to reporting to their sites.

Program Requirements

Language: None

Coursework: None

Personal Qualities:

  • Strong communication and listening skills
  • Empathy and cultural sensitivity, and a healthy self-awareness
  • Desire to learn more about and contribute to the well-being of the community
  • Ability to work as part of a team and accept constructive criticism

Other: Some community partners require a background check.

Curricular Connections

This program serves as a great introduction to community and economic development for those contemplating a major in economics, public policy or sociology.  For those who are currently majoring in these fields or something related, DukeEngage Durham complements the curricular work and brings to life the challenges and joys of community-based economic development. Having community partners here in the host city of Durham, NC, allows for the possibility of sustained relationships and future internships and research. The following courses provide good insights into the key factors that impact economic and community development within a community. They provide a great foundation for one planning to participate in this program but also help as follow-up experience as students continue to reflect upon their experiences:

  • EDUC 113FS – 01 Enterprising Leadership and Civic Engagement
  • Spring House courses:
    • Tools for Financial Coaching—Kathy Sikes
    • Durham Giving Project—Sam Miglarese
    • Community Empowerment Fund House course—Janet Xiao
  • Econ 390.01 – Social Inequality and Low Wage Work

Program Details

Description of Community: Summer temperatures in Durham, NC, can be very warm and humid. It is a good idea to drink plenty of liquids and use sunscreen while enjoying the area’s many summer festivals and outdoor events. Durham, England, will be much cooler during the program, so participants should plan accordingly by packing long-sleeved shirts, pants and a jacket. The average high during our time there is 67 degrees, and it is commonly overcast and raining. The area is quite hilly and requires a good amount of walking to get from the campus of Durham University to Durham’s City Center.

Housing and Meals: During the six weeks in Durham, NC, students will reside in apartments on Duke’s Central Campus. Participants will share a furnished apartment, typically with one other person in the program. The apartment provides access to laundry facilities, private kitchens and study/private spaces. Apartments with access for people with disabilities are available upon request. In Durham, England, participants will reside in dorm rooms on the Durham University campus. Students will reside in single rooms with en-suite bathrooms. Accommodations include on-site laundry facility with pre-loaded laundry detergent, as well as porter service for any after-hour emergencies and needs.

If you do not eat certain types of food for cultural, religious or personal reasons, please contact the DukeEngage office,, to discuss whether or not your dietary needs can be reasonably accommodated in these program sites.

In Durham, NC, participants will eat with other members of the program two evenings each week during reflection sessions and outings. Program leaders will provide one meal a week; students are responsible for all other meals, using their DukeEngage stipend funds. Participants will have an opportunity to buy food and prepare meals in their apartments or to eat at nearby restaurants, again using stipend funds. In Durham, England, most of the breakfast meals will be available within Collingwood College on the campus of Durham University. Hot and cold breakfast options will be offered. Tea and coffee facilities are available in the rooms, as well as drinkable water. Participants will be responsible for their own lunch, dinners, and weekend meals using stipend funds.

Transportation: In Durham, NC, the program arranges daily van transportation, Monday through Friday, for students without cars who are unable to use the Bull City Connector/DATA bus to get to and from their work sites. The program also provides van transportation for all students on weekend group enrichment trips. All students may use campus buses for personal use as well. Participants will travel together as a group from Durham, NC, to Durham, England. In Durham, England, participants will be given a bus pass in order to use local public transportation, though most of the sites are within walking distance. At the end of the program, participants will depart from Durham, England, traveling to their home destinations using stipend funds to cover transportation to and from the airport.

Communication: In Durham, NC, we assume all students will have a personal cell phone for program-related and emergency communication. In Durham, England, each student team (those placed at the same site) will be provided with a basic local cell phone for program-related and emergency communication. Wireless internet is available in the communal areas of the college, including the computer lab located in the building.  Students will be issued a Durham University identification card that will allow access to the university library where they can use the computers and other library related items during free time.

Local Safety and Security; Cultural Norms, Mores and Practices: DukeEngage strongly advises all applicants to familiarize themselves with the challenges travelers commonly encounter at this program site in order to make an informed application decision. We recommend starting with the Diversity, Identity and Global Travel section of the DukeEngage website.

Opportunities for Reflection: Regular, weekly reflection sessions will be led mostly by the program’s site coordinator. Periodically, students will take the lead.  Reflection activities include readings on approaches to community service and their outcomes, TED talks related to civic engagement, making connections between the various service placements and their work, etc. All participants are expected to attend group meetings and to participate fully. All participants are expected to respond to weekly reflection prompts as well as contribute to the program blog. A final program calendar will be given to all participants during the pre‐program orientation.

Other Opportunities: Some past cultural enrichment activities in Durham, NC, have included Durham Bulls baseball games, historic walking tours, the Festival for the Eno, kayaking on the Eno, and the Hayti Heritage Center’s Juneteenth celebration. Participants will have free time to pursue social activities and down time during those evenings and weekends when there is no scheduled programming for the group. In a late spring orientation session, participants will receive a calendar of program events. As is the case for all DukeEngage programs, participants may not enroll in or audit summer school courses or private preparatory classes for graduate/professional admissions tests, or be employed during the program. There are volunteer commitments most days in Durham, England. There will be one free weekend (Saturday and Sunday) for participants to pursue personal interests within County Durham, and another free weekend to use as they please. Open water swimming is not a sponsored activity in any DukeEngage program.

More Information

  • Durham County: A History of Durham County, North Carolina, Edition 2 by Jean Bradley Anderson
  • “Sight and Sound,” October, 2009 edition on King Coal in British film (“Going Underground”)
  • The Pitman’s Requiem by Peter Crookston
  • Neither Beasts Nor Gods—Civic Life and the Public Good by Francis Kane
  • Clash!: How to Thrive in a Multicultural World by Hazel R. Markus and Alana Conner
Benefits of Local Service

This program serves as a great introduction to community and economic development for those contemplating a major in economics, public policy or sociology. For those who are currently majoring in these fields or something related, the Brodhead DukeEngage-Durham complements the curricular work and brings to life the challenges and joys of community-based economic development. Having community partners here in the host city of Durham, NC, allows for the possibility of sustained relationships and future internships and research.

“Over the past 6 weeks in Durham, NC, I feel that I am slowly transitioning from a mere bystander to an actual member of the Durham community.” — B. Yin, 2017

“One of the main reasons why I chose this program is that I wanted my service to have a long-lasting impact on the community. Since I’m working in Durham, I can always come back during the school year and carry my projects forward.” — B. Wang, 2017

group of people wearing hard hats posing for the camera