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Akinwumi_Adesina_-_2014_(cropped)DRIVING SOCIAL CHANGE
The potential for universities to be instigators
of social change, to level the field a little
when it comes to knowledge capital, can
extend beyond the bounds of the campus.
There’s a strong civic and philanthropic
drive behind the desire to increase the social
and economic impact of our research
and teaching.
But it’s not just about discoveries that
may have a positive economic benefit, or a
positive impact on health and well-being of
people more generally. The way we carry out
research and scholarship, and generate and
share knowledge, could—with effective
engagement—be something much more
beneficial and relevant to society as a whole.
There’s a growing recognition that universities
can only achieve this by working purposefully
and effectively with external partners, civic
society organisations, business and wider
publics. Engagement is increasingly seen as
something that is not only essential to
excellent research, and to teaching—but as
part of universities’ social and civic
responsibilities.
Universities are knowledge institutions
and brokers. Part of their democratic and
enlightening function is to make knowledge
relevant, accessible and useable to people
everywhere. But the benefits of research have
not been distributed evenly through society.
Researchers may be convinced they are acting
for the public good, but they need to test that
assumption.
So there’s a note of caution to be sounded
here: We may think we know how to engage
with the public, but do we really know what
people would like from us and how they
would like us to engage? And how they
would like to influence the direction of
research and education?
There won’t be a one-size-fits-all solution
for effective engagement across and within
institutions. And we boldly suggest that the
solutions will be discovered through a
bottom-up rewiring of the system and a reenergising
of social responsibility in research
supported from above, and from outside. If
we can achieve that, then through that
exchange of ideas, knowledge and trust,
power really could be shared more widely—
for a change

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