Thursday, September 24, 2009

Innovating in higher education: Is it possible to do it through community engagement?

I have been trying to look for organizational innovations in higher education. And let me confess you that my impression is that we continue doing the same things. So I wonder if there is still the possibility to generate innovations or it is only a myth.

In most of the cases, developing community engagement has been used as a strategy to connect universities with their surrounding communities and make a difference, maybe somehow innovating how higher education institutions can promote social change. Unfortunately, this relationship has been distorted looking for benefiting the academic community rather that the community itself. Most of the times, there is a sense of "we can do everything". Maybe we should look at our actions and outreach in a humble way in order to commit to generate social trust and, then, social change. I would recommend that you read “10 Ways Colleges Can Work With Their Communities” (The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 7, 2009). It reminds us briefly how communities mistrust academy based on their familiarity with unsustainable projects that raise expectations but are discontinued once there are no more funds and, in the case of volunteering students, there is no consideration to the disruption that their presence can cause.

It is not my intention to generate a polemics about how the good intentions of faculty and students is being held but to reflect about hoe we engage in these activities in order to create a real win-win situation.

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