International USR Summit 2022

International USR Summit 2022

The International USR Summit 2022, hosted virtually by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and the University Social Responsibility Network, was successfully concluded on 18 November 2022. The overall theme of the event is “Education and Action for a Sustainable Future”.

This biennial flagship event of the University Social Responsibility Network (USR Network) gathered 140 speakers and over 640 online participants from 78 countries/regions to exchange ideas, foster partnerships among universities and advance the global USR movement.

In addition to the focus on education and the global community, the 2022 Summit further broadened the scope to attract presentations from science and technology experts to mobilise all-round collaborative research to make our planet more sustainable, and our communities more advance and inclusive.

Prof. Jin-Guan Teng, President of PolyU, Prof. Ben Young, Vice President (Student and Global Affairs) of PolyU, and Prof. Daniel T. L. Shek, Associate Vice President (Undergraduate Programme) of PolyU kicked off the Summit, which was organised in conjunction with the 4th International Conference Service-Learning (ICSL).

President Teng welcomed the speakers and guests to the joint welcome session of the International USR Summit 2022 and the 4th International Conference Service-Learning. President Teng shared the joint event is a timely event as the world is currently facing many challenges that require universities to promote social responsibility in order to make the world a better place. “We promote social responsibility not only in education but also in our research endeavours.” said President Teng.” Be challenged and inspired by what you learn from the community and turn those findings into research ideas and projects. Bring the research back into the community where it can do the most good.” President Teng concluded his welcome address by making a suggestion to the educators and researchers.

As the Chair of the International USR Summit 2022 Organising Committee, Prof. Ben Young, PolyU’s Vice President (Global and Student Affairs), believes the USR Summit is an event that we reflect on the USRN’s trajectory and an occasion that we celebrate our accomplishment and partnership. Prof. Young said, “The light attracts us, the vision gathers us around the globe, the responsibility empowers us and guides us to co-create a sustainable future for the betterment of all beings in this planet.”

The three-day Summit comprised various plenary and parallel sessions which delve into six sub-themes:  Assessing and Reinforcing USR Impacts; Collaborative Research to Address Global Challenges; Driving Institutional Changes for USR; Education to Cultivate Social Responsibility; Elevating Sustainable Development through Regional and Global Collaboration; Social Innovation for Inclusive Communities.

In the first keynote session, Prof. Barrett Hazeltine at Brown University talked about service learning in the context of social responsibility, artificial intelligence, entrepreneurship, and technological literacy.

Prof. Hazeltine articulated that service learning corroborates lessons about how everything is connected to everything else and bridges the gap two-tier society in terms of technology. “Besides learning the relevant technology, a graduate shall be able to think broadly and collaborate. Collaborative technology would advance service learning as a collaborator sees problems invisible to a designer. Service learning gets engineering students closer to the customers and customers closer to the technology.”

Among the speakers on the first day were Dr. Marisol Morales at Carnegie Elective Classifications and Mr. Phil Baty at Times of Higher Education (THE). Their organisations are at the vanguard of data-driven analysis on universities’ efforts and effectiveness in social responsibilities.

Carnegie Elective Classifications is intended to assist in a process of institutional changes to improve the educational effectiveness of the campus. The classification review standards include holistic review, foundational indicators, coherent institutional narrative, alignment, and implementation, while THE’s Impact Ranking evaluates universities in the lens of the four catalysts for change, namely research, stewardship, teaching and outreach, and how institutes perform in United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The in-depth discussion on the evolving metrics frameworks to measure, benchmark and incentivise universities’ social responsibilities and public purpose was moderated by Prof. Lara Johannsdottir at the University of Iceland.

Dr. Morales believes that the application process of getting the elective classification is the prize. “We have seen, for many institutions, the value that going through the process of assessing their institutional commitment to community engagement and now the leadership for public purposes, has in transforming the institutions. They are thinking about work plans, strategic plans, accreditation, and how community engagement transforms their institutions.”

Mr. Baty emphasized that excellence in social responsibilities comes in many forms and diversity of the sector globally is a great strength. “Not all universities will perform a role in society like Harvard. However, universities are doing other wonderful things at the local, national, and regional level. They are doing it outside of the research environment in terms of their teaching of new skills and their interactions with society. There’s a global movement of embracing universities in global south as well as global north, and redefining what excellence looks like to be more inclusive and diverse in terms of mission, size, shape, history, heritage and wealth.”

The International USR Summit 2022 Organising Committee thanks all participants and speakers for making the USR Summit 2022 a very inspiring exchanges and exploration. The quality and energy of the presentations would be an extraordinary source of guidance for the next period of the University Social Responsibility (USR) movement.

Session recordings of the full Summit’s programme are now available for playback. Please feel free to share the playback link with those who have missed joining the Summit in real time.