At the global networking meeting at IAU, held in Montreal on May 7-8, 2015, Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, the IAU President and Jean-Luis Klein, Director of the UQAM based Centre for Social Innovation Research, presented a unique and innovation concept: social innovation within a values-based and transformative framework. Social innovation, rather than trying to be a lead concept with all its vague and neutral language, became in the minds of Razak and Klein one of many tools for transforming higher education.
Razak places sustainability, balance, relational learning and ecologies of knowledge at the heart of his vision of the challenges to higher education. He argues that HE needs to find a balance within the ‘4-Ps’, prosperity, politics, planet and people. Today, he says, we are dominated by the economic dimension which is unsustainable. We need a transformation of mentalities as we un/re/co-learn towards a better world.
Klein focuses on community university research partnerships and the co-construction of knowledge as the basis for social innovation. They have created a partnership of 10 universities, some government and many civil society organisations to advance what others have called a new architecture of knowledge. Quebec has done what English Speaking Canada has not done, that is to take over the concept of social innovation and define it within a politically transformative vision. The Government of Quebec has invested in the new vision of knowledge by creating a new body dedicated to the co-construction of knowledge. TIESS is the French acronym, which can be loosely translated as Regional Innovations in Social Economy and Solidarity. I know of no other structure like this in the world, but perhaps others will know differently.
An important message for those of us working on issues of community university engagement and the social responsibility of higher education is that the leadership of the largest global network in higher education is concerned with many of the same issues.
Budd Hall and Crystal Tremblay participated in the IAU gathering in Montreal recently, where we made the first international presentation on our forthcoming book, Strengthening Community University Research Partnerships and also made a presentation on the GUNi report, Knowledge, Engagement and Higher Education: Contributing to Social Change. Xavier Grau, the Non-Executive Director of GUNi was also presented at the conference.