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Energizing Higher Education Sustainability through Rural-Community Development Activation

Muhammad Setiawan Kusmulyono
Wawan Dhewanto
1 and
Melia Famiola
School of Business and Management, Institut Teknologi Bandung, Bandung 40132, Indonesia
School of Business and Economics, Universitas Prasetiya Mulya, Jakarta 15339, Indonesia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2023, 15(3), 2222;
Submission received: 24 December 2022 / Revised: 18 January 2023 / Accepted: 20 January 2023 / Published: 25 January 2023
(This article belongs to the Collection Higher Education in Innovation Ecosystems)


Higher education institutions play important roles in the community. Unfortunately, measuring the accomplishment of HEIs in developing communities is challenging. Most HEI contributions to the community are merely a formality and moral obligation. This study’s identified gap is the absence of integration of community development activities into HEIs, which would boost their impact on environmental sustainability. This study intends to investigate how institutions that support entrepreneurial-oriented community development affect students’ learning and impact society. This study employs an action research approach to develop long-term actionable knowledge. This approach employed a case study from the Rural Community Development Program, a community empowerment program based on institutionalized entrepreneurship practices (formal courses in the curriculum) from ABC University (a pseudonym). The RCDP allows the HEI to interact with society through a dual simultaneous cycle which allow knowledge transfer, social value transfer, and business development with its partners. This model allows more than 100 groups of students at ABC University to be more focused in developing community. On the theoretical side, the RCDP contributes by encouraging the role of social entrepreneurship courses which provides a more significant impact through practice-based lectures while also significantly impacting rural communities’ business knowledge in developing their micro enterprises.

1. Introduction

Higher education institutions (HEI) play important positions in the community [1]. HEIs can assist a country’s local-to-global development and play a unique role by enhancing human capital, knowledge transfer, and technology commercialization through experimentation and innovation [2,3,4,5]. As a result, the impact of HEIs is not just in economic development but also as a driver of knowledge for improving people’s well-being [6]. An HEI can create many initiatives to strengthen communities by supporting local firms, providing policy recommendations to local and state governments, and participating in community outreach activities [6,7,8].
The intersection of higher education and society is a nascent research topic, specifically in Indonesia. An HEI is usually focused on monitoring research and teaching performance [9], but it does not highlight its contribution to community development [10,11,12]. This need is normal because universities are the center of significant knowledge and skills [13]. Participating in community development could represent a chance to fill a gap in the science of production and reproduction [13].
Measuring the accomplishment of HEIs in developing communities is challenging. The major hurdle is that the relationships between HEIs and communities is complicated and difficult to assess [10,12]. Furthermore, the variety of partnership models will make operations at the institutional level of HEIs more difficult [10,14]. Furthermore, the possibility of a long period necessitates a strong commitment and investment [10]. In conclusion, most HEI contributions to the community are merely a formality and moral obligation.
HEIs play a critical part in Indonesia’s development as an emerging country. The Educational Statistics Report of Kementerian Pendidikan dan Budaya (Kemendikbud) or the Ministry of Education and Culture in 2020 explained that Indonesia had 4593 HEIs and 29,413 study programs ranging from education, technology, social, health, economics, and arts, with a total student population of 8,483,213 [15]. Specifically, in community service, the government encourages the community service program (CSP), known as the Kuliah Kerja Nyata—KKN, which is carried out by lecturers and students. Community capacity building, poverty alleviation, and rural community development are examples of CSP activities. Unfortunately, many of an HEI’s CSP programs in Indonesia are not long-term and are not part of the formal education curriculum.
This study’s examined research gap is the absence of integration of community development activities into HEIs, which if present would boost their impact on environmental sustainability. This is because community development has not developed into a social responsibility strategy from an HEI’s viewpoint, particularly in Indonesia. Universities worldwide are beginning to support the sustainable development of their countries by fulfilling a crucial societal need through fostering new teaching, research, and community involvement activities [4,16]. This study intends to investigate how institutions that support entrepreneurial-oriented community development affect students’ learning and impact society. The research question that serves as the foundation for this study is: What issues need to be addressed to create sustainable community empowerment through lecturer, student, and community cooperation? As a result, this study clarifies the application of action research methodologies for improving the standard of community employee programs in aiding the formation of strong student character, encouraging the independence of community enterprises, and boosting university performance.
This research will contribute practically to the development of collaborative academic programs between students, teachers, and the community. This practical contribution will encourage more innovative and practical curriculum elaboration for HEIs in Indonesia. Theoretically, this research will also contribute to developing the concept of university social responsibility using an action research approach. Another conceptual contribution of this research is the application of dual action research, conducted concurrently and linked by the problem owner and user.

1.1. Higher Education and Community Outreach in Indonesia—Context

HEIs in Indonesia face some challenges. HEIs were aimed at promoting national growth during the New Order regime (1968–1998). Afterward, the reformation era (after 1998) prioritized the decentralization of higher education, hoping that HEIs would become independent institutions. In 2018, the number of tertiary institutions in Indonesia reached 4670, classified into universities, institutes, schools of higher learning, academies, community colleges, and polytechnics. In 2014, the Ministry of Education and Culture was separated from Higher Education, but in 2019 the Ministry was reunited with a new policy called Merdeka Belajar. This policy seeks to shift the HEI paradigm to optimize its autonomy with a creative learning culture. The goal is to contribute more actively to economic development in line with the government’s vision of a mental transformation for major character changes of prospective college graduates.
The Thematic CSP concept was introduced in 1999 to expand the previous CSP. Furthermore, since 2003, universities have been required to participate in community service activities stipulated in official rules and regulations. The Ministry of Education and Culture later covered this CSP with numerous grant programs, such as Science and Technology for the Community. However, in some universities, CSP is based on a grant request rather than a mandated curriculum that students must follow. There are no consequences if the university does not carry out these activities.

1.2. Role of HEI

HEIs have a strategic role in the community [1,17]. The HEI is the region’s major contributor to jobs in almost all cities in the United States [1]. This phenomenon also arises in many parts of Indonesia, where local economic conditions are greatly affected by many regions with state and private universities. Currently, community participation continues to be a central agenda of HEIs. Public outreach represents a knowledge-based approach to teaching, studying, and servicing the direct beneficiaries of external audiences [18]. They will provide society with several benefits while allowing it to test new ideas and find better ways of achieving social and environmental objectives [19]. Through supporting local businesses, policy guidance to the state and local government, and community outreach programs, HEIs will create several initiatives to strengthen communities [6,7,8,17]. In some situations, HEIs adopt ISO to ensure the quality of their working activities to the stakeholders [20]. For several university leaders, this initiative is challenging while fostering university primacy and preserving competitiveness in the global economy [1].
In order to thrive and prosper, HEIs, like businesses, need to make strategic decisions [4,5,16]. The relational theory of network pictures indicates that HEIs could relate to other stakeholders, establish relationships, and respond to their actions [21]. Network pictures must be put in decision makers’ minds to sense their network of connected relations, how they perceive strategizing options, and evaluate these interactions [22]. Decision makers should have step-wise experience in making decisions relevant to their network by improving network visualization and strategizing through an action research approach, starting from identifying key relationship problems, analyzing relationship dimensions, explaining the linked relationship, and analyzing strategic options [21].

2. Materials and Methods

This study employs an action research approach to developing long-term actionable knowledge for practitioners and academics. The action research strategy is beneficial because it can enhance university collaboration, strengthen researcher–practitioner relationships, and contribute to knowledge transfer [23,24]. Action research allows for a cyclical and recursive dialectical interaction between practice, reflection, and learning [25]. This approach employed a case study from the Rural Community Development Program (RCDP), a community empowerment program based on institutionalized entrepreneurship practices (formal courses in the curriculum) from ABC University (a pseudonym). The RCDP is focused on the ideal’s combination of empowerment, entrepreneurship, and social entrepreneurship, which are subsequently transformed into real-world business support for rural communities by student groups. In this way, action research allows researchers to create an integrated set of studies based on multiple contributions, both theoretical and practical [23,24].
Due to the jurisdiction of this RCDP, the action research process occurs only in committee and student groups. The study between committee and student groups is intimately tied because the activities of students are the resource material for the committee evaluation. The material in the RCDP implementation guide is intended to help student groups ensure that action research is conducted in a structured manner during the program implementation.
The data collection process in this research took several forms. First, it utilized administrative reporting from student group reports. Student groups submitted reports at the end of each activity phase, allowing the committees to track progress and evaluate. Second, the researchers interviewed the vice rector, dean, RCDP director, RCDP staff, faculty members, students, and village partners. The researchers were engaged in this activity as advisors because it was participatory action research. As a result, researchers conducted interviews with the program committee and collected information on each decision. The data analysis outcomes were always presented in a professional setting through official meetings so that all program committees could learn how their findings developed. The efficient and effective integrations of research findings into activities were subsequently standardized into program inputs.
As a form of participatory action research, the researchers participated and served as a consultant group in considering decisions that will be taken by the RCDP committee. However, every word of advice provided by the researchers was not an order but a consideration for decision making. This advising role was provided because the researchers are experienced as university-level community development practitioners. The advice process is always conducted in a professional setting to prevent subjectivity bias.

3. Results

3.1. Project Background

The RCDP is a project-based course encouraging students to form a group and work with villagers to build enterprises in rural areas see Figure 1. This RCDP model uses a blended concept: namely, business partnerships and foster parents [] [26]. This blended approach enables selected villagers to team up as business partners and foster parents for the students living with them. It encourages village businessmen and students to have a dual relationship as business partners and foster parents. The goal of this hybrid approach is for students to use their expertise to assist partners while gaining benefits through maintaining their social stability, adhering to village norms, and absorbing the value of austerity passing from the village community to students.
The RCDP runs as a compulsory course (4 credits) taught in groups of multidisciplinary students, accompanied by a lecturer in each group. The RCDP aspires to create a self-sufficient, sustainable, and superior community with a dash of entrepreneurship based on local knowledge and potential. This vision aligns with global initiatives to improve people’s lives through sustainable development goals in various areas, including poverty eradication (1), high-quality education (4), decent work and economic growth (8), and responsible consumption and production (12). Student groups have been trained with business knowledge and skills to assist village business partners. Starting with preparation, living in, and mentoring, the student group works for nine months (see Table 1).
Activities in the program are differentiated between the committee and students’ groups. Most of the activities conducted by the committee involve surveying community development locations, looking for available partners from villages and applying for program permission, supervising programs in the field, and evaluating community development activities. On the other hand, students’ groups focus on conducting the field program, starting from finding a partner through an auction system, and engaging with a partner to long-distance mentoring after the live-in stage. These relationships between the program’s committee and students’ groups are connected through formal guidance, rules, and course plans.
The concept of the KKN as a CSP is similar to the concept of a community development corporation (CDC) which is run in North America. A CDC is an organization that formally seeks to enhance and develop local economic growth by collaborating with the roles of business corporations, public service organizations, and government agencies [27]. The CDC aims to produce quality public services for the community, grow human capital and social capital, and accommodate technology transfer between sectors [27]. CDC is not a government-owned agency: it stands independent and has a more professional organizational governance so that it can take significant initiative and participate in the development of the local economy. However, the big differences between the KKN and a CDC is the role of a HEI in the program implementation in which KKN asks for more collaborative involvement from academics, society, and government.

3.2. Problem Identification Stage

The RCDP is a collaborative program from ABC University that has the potential to enhance the university’s role in increasing sustainability in rural communities through student–lecturer collaboration in a comprehensive program. Unfortunately, the growth in the number of students, the variation in the character of the business partners in the village, and the village’s geopolitical situation led to the RCDP experiencing problems in its sustainability operations. Some findings included business partners no longer continuing their business after the program was completed, village governments not assisting RCDP partner businesses, and fluctuating student motivation as a driving team. The RCDP can send more than 1000 students every year, equivalent to more than 120 groups, to dozens of villages. This shows the program’s significance in making an impact if the optimal output can be achieved.
Initial interviews and observations as part of participatory action research indicated several problematic findings. This problematic situation became the formulation of research questions that encourages the implementation of this research. An overview of the situation that occurred is presented in Figure 2. It shows that the RCDP is in line with the values and mission of the founding foundation of ABC University. However, the rectorate and the deans requested that the RCDP could make the knowledge context real so that they can redefine the existing community development programs. The rectorate also sees that the RCDP must ensure that the impacts in society must be in line with the values and vision of the Foundation.
On the student side, the problem related to motivation to run the RCDP was the biggest challenge. The assignment to go to a new place within a certain time made them worried and uncomfortable. On the other hand, the RCDP committee, as the implementing team, also experienced problems related to identifying the needs of the community. Furthermore, the quality assurance section demanded every action comply with existing regulations.
The rich picture related to the observed problem shows that problematic situations arise in the university’s efforts to organize programs capable of creating sustainable community empowerment. Therefore, an action research study approach needs to be implemented to realize a community development model based on collaboration between student-teachers and village entrepreneurs. Next, the researchers carried out action research based on the findings of this existing rich picture, adjusted to the wishes of the university as the owner of the problem.

3.3. Action Research Stage

In this project, the action research process adapted Lewin’s model of plan, action, observe, and reflect [28,29]. In Lewin’s model, action research is started by planning after understanding and analyzing the problem through fact-finding and reconceptualization [29], followed by observing and reflecting for evaluation before the next cycle.
The role of the committee was in the programs area, specifically in the action research process (see Figure 3 A code), while the role of the student participant group was in the student’s project area (see Figure 3 B code). The committee and the student group were considered actors because they carried out real activities in the process of community development activities. Each actor acted according to their duties and functions simultaneously at each level.
Committee and student groups were involved in tasks simultaneously. Each stage completed by the committee (marked by an A code) had immediate consequences on the committee’s work in the subsequent stage. On the other hand, the committee and student groups had focused on their respective roles (see Table 1) during the preparatory stages (A2 & B1). The committee was responsible for ensuring that the RCDP operated well, while the student group ensured that the partnership process ran smoothly. The committee and student group were reconnected after the student group completed the mentoring process (B3), one of the inputs in the committee’s evaluation stage (A5).
The committee was the first actor. Starting with pre-incubation (A1), preparation (A2), live-in (A3), mentorship (A4), and evaluation (A5), this committee functioned as a practitioner to guarantee that every stage of activity proceeded smoothly. At each level, the program manager and his team made periodic adjustments to ensure that the policies established followed the dynamics of field situations.
A group of students was the second actor. Students had begun to receive direction since the pre-incubation stage, but they had not been formed in a group. They joined as a group when they entered the preparation stage (B1). Therefore, the action research process for student groups started at the preparation stage (B1), continued in live-in (B2), and mentoring (B3). Every stage involving the student groups was accompanied and monitored by a lecturer (as supervisor) and a committee.
Researchers played a role in both cycles to observe each stage of the running process and conveyed the findings in each reflection process. The reflection process at the program level was delivered directly by the researchers. In contrast, at the student project level, it was assisted by the supervisor and project facilitator through discussion and administrative reporting.

3.3.1. Pre-Incubation Stage (A1)

This stage was the implementation of the SE course. The committee was also part of the teaching team in the SE course. The action research activities carried out were at the end of the course, when the teaching team was evaluated to improve the quality of learning in terms of content, learning methods, and case studies. The evaluation was used to improve the semester learning plans and input for the implementation of the CDP in the preparation stage (A2).

3.3.2. Preparation Stage for Program Management (A2) and Student Groups (B1)

The committee’s output from the preparation stage (A2) was an action plan ready to be implemented during the live-in stage. This activity was carried out simultaneously for two months from October of the current year with the following activities: convincing prospective partners, applying for permission, and providing technical briefings. At this stage, a partner auction through link-match activities was also carried out. Student groups chose potential partners with appropriate entrepreneurial capital.
The preparation stage for students is a critical initial stage. At this stage, they just found out who their teammates would be. Students had limited time to adapt to other colleagues and prepare themselves to choose potential partners. After the partner auction, the group was introduced to potential partners online. Since then, student groups and village partners started discussing business plans to be developed for partner businesses in the village.

3.3.3. Live-In Stage for Program Management (A3) and Student Groups (B2)

At the live-in stage, the committee focused on supervising the performance of student groups. The RCDP director stayed in the village every day and carried out routine control of students’ group performance. In this stage, the student group lived with business partners for a month. The student group did not pay a fee to live in a partner’s home. During their stay, student groups carried out business activation with partners. During business activation, student groups are required to complete the assignments given in this program. The assignment was given to monitor and evaluate the business performance of students. Every activation made by the group must be monitored and observed to assess its achievement at the end of the live-in stage.

3.3.4. Mentoring Stage for Program Management (A4) and Mentoring Stage for Student Groups (B3)

The mentoring stage involved a step of remote assistance. The group monitored the partners from campus. Generally, students used mobile phone applications using data or visited partners regularly every month. Simultaneously, students’ groups were also required to undergo the task of presenting business performance developments. The mentoring stage for program managers identified the potential independence of business partners when they are no longer accompanied intensively by student groups. The program manager also conducted surveys and observations to identify the achievements of business partners during the CDP.

3.3.5. Evaluation Stage for Program Management (A5)

The evaluation stage was outside the period for the implementation of the RCDP. It was a transition stage to comprehensively evaluate the series of RCDP activities in that year to be a reflection and input for the implementation of the RCDP in the following year. References for data and information used for reflection and evaluation came from reports on business performance conducted by groups of students, pre-test and post-test surveys conducted on business partners, evaluations and inputs given by supervisors, as well as inputs given by village officials and local and regional governments.

4. Discussion

This action research approach with the dual simultaneous cyclical process model supports the concept of continuous improvement in the RCDP. Nearly every year, there are improvements that support program quality improvement. In addition, some of the findings in the analysis process of this action research were later turned into scientific articles for publication in journals. The articles are about improving the ability to identify business opportunities and awareness after the RCDP [30], the strength of village community social capital [31], and others.
This dual simulation model of the cyclical process encourages business partners to focus and be consistent in their businesses. The policy in this RCDP is that business partners can be accompanied for a maximum of three years. It indicates the need for a significant business escalation every year even though the group of students accompanying partners is different. This shows that the approach can be a medium for knowledge transfer between groups of students and village partners, even though they are of different generations. These results also emphasize the role of universities as centers for information and skills [4].
Partners in the village claimed their knowledge and entrepreneurial abilities have improved. They also started to have a forward-thinking perspective and expanded their business networks through chat group information. Apart from good contributions, some common issues include communication difficulties, work culture differences, and eyesight differences. However, these problems did not result in a dangerous crisis and were resolved through discussion and communication. These results will define the capacity of community resiliency to have local initiatives and provides service to society [32].
Action research conducted with two actors running activities simultaneously allows the realization of actionable knowledge. One form of actionable knowledge is an integrated activity between the RCDP as a subject and activities in the field to ensure the achievement of the objectives. This encourages villages to generate added value and create a good ecosystem for the economic development of citizens. These results are relevant to the discussion that a HEI could infuse social innovation into society through some unique advantages [16,18].
Village governments currently have ambitions to build their village entrepreneurship in a more organized manner as bureaucratic partners. Furthermore, the village government can begin engaging village partners who operate as village entrepreneurs as discussion partners to improve the village’s economic performance.
The benefit most felt by the village community from this program is the significant transfer of knowledge through a business partnership scheme. According to the recapitulation of financial reports released by business partners, most partners were able to increase their income, although not all were able to do so. However, what has materialized significantly is an increase in business knowledge and skills owned by business partners. This information was obtained from the results of the pre-test and post-test reports.
As an empowerment program, the RCDP believes that social development is a prerequisite for effective economic development. Hence, the knowledge and skills aspects are the key to business sustainability from the internal side. The variables measured were divided into five parts: business strategy, HR, operational, marketing, and financial. As a leading business partner, the student group was designed so that the composition of their expertise could resemble that of a company. The goal was to be able to provide comprehensive assistance to the five management sections.
Outputs in strategic management include the availability of a vision and mission, business models, and business development plans. On the human resource side, the outputs include the ability to identify goals, strengths, and weaknesses, identify problems and solutions, risk mapping, and decision making. On the operational side, the availability of procedures in production, improvement of production equipment and packaging, and optimization of production capacity. On the marketing side, the availability of content, layouts on social media, adding channels marketing using e-commerce, and marketing plan. Lastly, on the financial side, is the availability of neat financial records using Microsoft Excel and the Android application Cash, calculating the cost of goods manufactured and profit.
One of the contributions of the action research is the success of the director in identifying critical processes: namely, the preparation stage. During the several years of implementation, coordination was not smooth between program managers, village governments, and local governments, causing the post-mentoring activities after the CDP in the initial cycle ended not progressing. Therefore, through regular observation and continuous improvement, a new approach has been successfully proposed to ensure program sustainability with multi-stakeholder involvement.
Figure 4 illustrates that the preparation stage, live-in stage, and mentoring stage from the program manager side are closely related to one another. The successful integration between these stages ensures the smooth running of the business partnership process between student groups and business partners. The figure above also illustrates that when the mentoring process is complete, and business partners start running their own businesses, representatives from the village government and local governments begin to take on the role of supporting business partners with business facilities and monitoring their businesses more intensively.
On the student side, there was a wide range of viewpoints expressed. The most difficult aspect was that students must live in their village partners’ homes for a month. However, the RCDP’s aid in the form of mentorship and lecturers that mentored students improved the process. Conversely, the student focused only on value incentives rather than on their partners’ sustainability. Fortunately, the RCDP could balance the performance targets by utilizing comprehensive stakeholder analysis.
According to discussions with university management, the existence of an action research strategy serves as a link between the university’s vision and mission and what has happened in the field without the need to update the strategic plan or university operational plan. The RCDP teaches students how to use their knowledge effectively to contribute to society and make a difference. Learning objectives and goals do not need to be changed. Adjusting the “how to” is the only thing that needs to be done. Every year, this action research strategy allows the RCDP and universities to review, develop better solutions, and make a stronger long-term impact [4,16,33].
Action research is not a linear research method [25]. The dual simultaneous cycle model evolving as part of the cycle action research in this study is a contextual finding in the circumstance at hand related to collaboration between student, lecturer, and SME in a university-sponsored academic program. Because of the rise in new understandings and changing scenarios, models created in other action research or the following cycle may differ [25]. According to Lewin’s framework, which serves as the basis for this study’s action research, the first phase is to conduct a scenario analysis, fact-finding mission, and reconceptualization of the project to be worked on [28,29]. Furthermore, the planning process must be completed to ensure all stakeholders are addressed.
The execution process is carried out by retaining the researcher’s role as a participant observer and consultant. This function entails only scrutiny, no action, and only delivering feedback to the RCDP director. This function must be performed with discipline to ensure that there is no bias, allowing for optimal learning reflection and the neutrality of the outcomes. What should not be overlooked throughout the implementation of this study is the importance of providing feedback at each stage to ensure continual improvement and the study’s circular nature [34].

5. Conclusions

The study on the intersection between higher education and society is still in its infancy, especially in Indonesia. This has happened because knowledge and understanding of the benefits of implementing the program in the community have not been carried out optimally. In fact, collaborating with the community will have multiple impacts on the sustainability of HEIs, from research and learning to the educational process. The presence of the RCDP shows that the gap between the needs of the community and the existing knowledge at the university can be minimized with a sustainable action research approach. Action research allows for constructive feedback on both the theoretical and practical side, which can be turned into actionable knowledge for the stakeholders involved, with the HEI supporting sustainability.
The dual simultaneous cyclical action research approach allows interaction between the RCDP committee and student groups directly engaged with business partners. This circumstance can accommodate the realization of knowledge transfer from interactions between student groups and vice versa as the transfer of social values and simplicity from partners to student groups. The RCDP accommodating action research can encourage and inspire students to conduct action research for transformation so that the business partners they support can be more successful and prosperous. This action research also provides a wide learning space without worrying about the risk of failure and bureaucratic obstacles because the student group is free to carry out a creative approach to achieve the most optimal results. The model proposed in this study also provides evidence that there are no issues of power, privilege, and imbalance because of the work authorization that has been well-determined, the limits on delegation given to each team member and student, and filters in the process of selecting locations and potential partners. This protocol guarantees that quality assurance is considered to meet the program’s objectives.
This RCDP also articulates a clear goal to realize an independent village through a touch of entrepreneurship by accommodating the concept of partnership and active participation from the community and local government. This program also significantly impacts rural communities’ business knowledge in strategic management, marketing, operations, human resources, and finance. The village community also has a new business entity that can be used as life support for their welfare. On the theoretical side, the RCDP encourages the role of social entrepreneurship courses in providing a more significant impact through practice-based lectures. This program is also transparent in its opportunity to be replicated by local governments as an alternative method to develop the welfare of rural communities through entrepreneurship.
This study also has limitations and requires further research to support the implementation of the proposed concept. The first limitation is related to the context of using a single university case in Indonesia. This provides many discussion questions related to variations in the course-based village community development approach model if it is carried out at other universities. In addition, technical aspects related to ethnic matters in society have not been considered more thoroughly. These limitations certainly open up future research opportunities to sharpen existing community service programs at HEIs so that they can contribute more sustainably to the community, both in rural and other environments.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, M.S.K., W.D. and M.F.; methodology, M.S.K., W.D. and M.F.; software, M.S.K.; validation, M.S.K. and W.D.; formal analysis, M.S.K., W.D. and M.F.; investigation, M.S.K. and M.F.; resources, M.S.K.; data curration, M.S.K.; writing—original draft preparation, M.S.K.; writing—review and editing, W.D. and M.F.; visualization, M.S.K.; supervision, W.D. and M.F.; project administration, M.S.K.; funding acquisition, M.S.K. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research received no external funding.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not available.

Informed Consent Statement

Not applicable.

Data Availability Statement

Not applicable.


We acknowledge the role of the university that gave support for the action research activities.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Figure 1. Community Development Model [26].
Figure 1. Community Development Model [26].
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Figure 2. Rich Picture of Observed Problems.
Figure 2. Rich Picture of Observed Problems.
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Figure 3. Dual Simultaneous Cyclical Process.
Figure 3. Dual Simultaneous Cyclical Process.
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Figure 4. Interaction of Stakeholders During Stages in the RCDP.
Figure 4. Interaction of Stakeholders During Stages in the RCDP.
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Table 1. Process of Community Development Phase.
Table 1. Process of Community Development Phase.
PhaseKnowledge Incubation PhaseCommunity Development Phase
StagePre-incubation StagePreparation StageLive-in StageMentoring StageEvaluation Stage
ObjectiveProviding an understanding of social theory and communityStudents understand the situation of partners and develop a suitable business plan Students cooperated with partners to activate the business plan Students assist partners remotely to monitor and mentor business progress Program evaluation
Duration Four monthsTwo monthsOne monthFour monthsTwo months
Activities of the Program CommitteeSurveying community development locationsLooking for available partners from villages and applying for program permission Supervising programs in the fieldSupervising mentoring programEvaluating the activities of community development and preparing for the following year’s program
Activities of the StudentsIn-class activities and compulsory course Matching with the partner through auction and engagement with the targeted partnerActivating plan with the partner, growing the business, and intensive assistantshipLong-distance mentoring between partner and studentsNo activities (the program is completed for students)
CoursesSocial Entrepreneurship (3 credits) in Semester VCommunity Development II (4 credits in Semester VI)No related course
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Kusmulyono, M.S.; Dhewanto, W.; Famiola, M. Energizing Higher Education Sustainability through Rural-Community Development Activation. Sustainability 2023, 15, 2222.

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Kusmulyono MS, Dhewanto W, Famiola M. Energizing Higher Education Sustainability through Rural-Community Development Activation. Sustainability. 2023; 15(3):2222.

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Kusmulyono, Muhammad Setiawan, Wawan Dhewanto, and Melia Famiola. 2023. "Energizing Higher Education Sustainability through Rural-Community Development Activation" Sustainability 15, no. 3: 2222.

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