Global Community University Networks: Call for Increased North-South Cooperation
On September 23rd 2010, eight international networks supporting community university engagement across the world gathered to participate in the first Global Video Dialogue on Enhancing North-South Cooperation in Community-University Engagement.
These networks, some of which did not know of each other, represent several thousand universities, professional bodies and civil society organisations. Networks that gathered for the Global Dialogue on Enhancing North-South Cooperation in Community-University Engagement are both university-led and community-led and were as follows: the Centro Boliviano de Estudios Multidisciplinarios, Commonwealth Universities Extension and Engagement Network, Global Alliance on Community Engaged Research (GACER), Global Universities Network for Innovation(GUNI), Living Knowledge Network, PASCAL International Observatory, Participatory Research in Asia, and the Talloires Network.
In this age of faltering financial economies and particular attention to environmental sustainability, the video platform of the dialogue intentionally set out to explore a new way of working together by gathering from various corners of the globe without taxing already limited resources. The Global Dialogue was hosted by the Institute of Education at the University of London and Co-Chaired by Professor Sir David Watson, with the Centre for Higher Education Studies and Principal of Green Templeton College at Oxford University and Dr. Rajesh Tandon, President of PRIA and Chair of GACER. David Watson describes the exercise as having “all the joy of good professional companionship, along with the excitement of an innovative format and the reassurance that we were achieving results without burning significant natural or financial resources.” Rajesh Tandon noted that, "as higher education in India and China expand dramatically to meet the needs of our rapidly changing nations, the responsibility of higher education to their communities and regions must be a central concern." The idea of gathering internationally focused Community-University Engagement networks to discuss the unique role and perspective of each network, tensions and challenges faced, and ways in which such networks can work together to make an impact on complex issues affecting local, national and international communities originated with Budd Hall from the University of Victoria's Office of Community-Based Research and GACER Secretary.
Complementary and Collaborative
The dialogue provided a space to begin a conversation about how knowledge created in both communities and other sites as well as our higher education institutions can be respected in the process of responding better to the needs of our communities; on how to address needs and demands for alternative appraisal systems to existing global 'League Tables' for ranking universities; brainstorming appropriate roles and contributions of international agencies such as UNESCO, World Bank, bi-lateral aid agencies, philanthropic foundations and religious institutions towards broadening the practices of community-university partnerships; beginning to strategise how the networks can reach out to missing voices, regions and vulnerable communities, as well as establishing relationships to address how such an alliance of networks can support future scholars, activists and administrators.
Among the outcomes of the Global Dialogue is the understanding of ways in which networks, such as those that participated, are complementary. Each network present, expressed a collective desire to develop ways of working together as a critical mass of knowledge communities representing multiple knowledge communities. With such a critical mass, the potential exists to collectively influence institutions, governing agencies and bodies to broaden the scope, visibility, practice and impact of community-university partnerships making a real difference in the lives of people in local and regional communities across the world. The informally named "Big Tent" group has agreed to give visibility to each others networks, conferences and projects, to continue to organize a series of video dialogues and podcasts and to explore a time for a face to face meeting something in the future.
Months before the Global Dialogue took place, networks and their community and university partners contributed in a collaborative process to develop a Communiqué of principles and agreements that could serve to enhance North-South cooperation in community-university engagement. It was drafted then discussed and revised in the space of the Global Dialogue. Subsequent iterations were made with further revisions reflecting the voices of a broad spectrum of networks and their partners recognising that different networks have quite different constituencies. The Communiqué belongs to all the various networks to use within their own networks to demonstrate that we are all part of a wider world of theory and practice. International community and university networks are encouraged to use it strategically wherever it might be helpful. For example, it is being used to alert international funding bodies of these kinds of strategies for investment and support and to send to national research granting higher education councils and bodies and local government. Translations in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Danish are available. Translations into Chinese, Japanese, Swedish and German are underway. Additional offers to translate the Communiqué are most welcome. Please feel free to issue releases and distribute it throughout your networks, use it for policy and climate enhancing purposes and in ways it may be most effective within your circles.
Finding the right language and the right means to provide a space for exchange and dialogue can be a challenge. As a first step, we celebrate the act of coming together through the Global Dialogue and we focus on the strengths of our collaboration.
For further information, please contact Budd Hall, Secretary of the Global Alliance for Community Engaged Research at firstname.lastname@example.org or any of the 'Big Tent' Global Dialogue partners.
About the author
Director of the Office of Community Based Research at the University of Victoria
Secretary of Community-Based Research, Canada
Professor of Adult Education, Community Development and Community-Based Research at the University of Victoria
Currently working on building networks linking local, regional, national and international persons using community-campus partnerships for community well-being and sustainable development
Community University Engagement