Making universities a leading force for positive change

In this age of political division, whole regions and groups of the population feel left behind and universities have been criticised, often unfairly, by populist leaders for being elite and aloof from their community and part of a globalisation process that is not giving back to ordinary people.

In fact, there are many examples of universities that are contributing significantly to their region and collaborating internationally to address global problems, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown.

While it is recognised that universities have their own important roles to play in developing basic research and teaching young people, they also have a lot to give and gain through working with communities and applying their knowledge to local and global challenges.

Through constructive civic engagement and development of students as ethical change leaders, they can become – and in many places are – a leading force for positive change in their community and internationally.

On 27 January 2021 University World News, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, will be bringing together experts and practitioners from across the world from the International Association of Universities, the Talloires Network of Engaged Universities and the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program in an online webinar to discuss:

How can universities improve their social impact?

• Should universities make social impact part of their mission and how?

• How can universities best address social inequity and build social solidarity?

• How can they encourage students to become agents of transformative change?

This free webinar is being held on 27 January 2021 at 9am in New York, 2pm GMT in London and 4pm in Johannesburg.

You can register to participate here.

The speakers include:

Hilligje van’t Land, secretary general of the International Association of Universities (IAU), based at UNESCO House, in Paris. IAU, the global voice for higher education, brings together universities from all around the world. When it comes to its work to foster sustainable development, IAU partners with the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the Association of Francophone Universities (AUF) at the United Nations and is committed to making higher education a key driver of societal change, including via education and research for sustainable development.

Lorlene Hoyt, based in Massachusetts, United States, executive director of the Talloires Network of Engaged Universities, whose mission is to work with heads of universities around the world to collaborate to confront societal challenges like diseases, famine, structural racism, gender oppression and climate change. She is also a research professor at the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University, Massachusetts, US.

Maha Haidar Makki, director of the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at the American University of Beirut, one of the oldest modern institutions of higher education in the Arab world and Global South. The programme supports students working with communities to tackle local challenges, such as COVID-19 awareness projects for refugees in Lebanon and campaigns against female genital mutilation in Africa.

Maryam Mohiuddin, founder and director of the Social Innovation Lab, Lahore, Pakistan, which hosts Pakistan’s first social enterprise incubator. It partners with universities encouraging experiential learning and helping professors and students, through engagement with the community, to develop humanistic ideas for social interventions, drawing inspiration from local wisdom and practices, and concepts such as regenerative design; and commercialise them, ensuring sustainability.

University World News-Mastercard Foundation webinars draw large global audiences. For instance, 1,350 academics, students, policy-makers and others registered for our previous webinar on ‘Employability in the Digital Age’ and the chatroom was filled with comments and questions from all around the world, ensuring a lively discussion.

The webinar is being hosted as part of our ongoing Transformative Leadership series, produced in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, which this month is focusing on ‘Building Social Impact and Civic Engagement’.

Participation is free and everyone who registers will receive advance details of the event and a recording of the webinar after the event has taken place. You can register to participate here.

To see all our articles on Transformative Leadership, take a look at our Transformative Leadership hub which you can access here.

PLEASE NOTE: The date for this event was changed and it has been postponed to 27 January 2021.