1 Ingenio (CSIC-Universitat Politècnica de València) (SPAIN)
2 IUCIE, Universitat de València (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN22 Proceedings
Publication year: 2022
Pages: 204-212
ISBN: 978-84-09-42484-9
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2022.0066
Conference name: 14th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2022
Location: Palma, Spain
Social Innovation (SI) is considered relevant to efforts designed to meet today’s grand challenges and the United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs) set out on the ambitious Agenda 2030 (United Nations, 2015). These challenges include resources scarcity, the problems related to living with a shifting climate and its uncertain consequences, recycling and waste management, demographic transitions associated with declining birth rates and increasing numbers of elderly people, high levels of immigration, the rising costs of healthcare, social exclusion, diversity in education provision, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic among others (European Comission, 2010).

Since the 1980s, European universities have become increasingly centralized due to a process of strategic modernization based on payment-by-results and managerial autonomy introduced to improve the productivity and efficiency of public spending.

This has affected the relationship between universities and society by:
(i) framing the value of university activities in cash terms;
(ii) ranking university activities based on their strategic importance; and
(iii) encouraging universities to focus on a few strategically important activities.

In turn, this has resulted in the university third mission of societal engagement being seen in financial terms, and has increased the importance of public engagement (especially with business) and income-generating activities at the expense of other activities. Prioritizing engagement with the business sector has meant that other social engagement activities have become less visible and less valued, while the emphasis on informal relationships often with voluntary community groups has increased.

European universities have always been linked to their host societies and higher education has been considered an expert knowledge delivery model providing broad access to education, producing professionals, improving welfare for farmers and industry workers, highlighting the value of democratic values, etc. The connection with communities has changed over the years to include more community-university engagement and co-creation of solutions. How the university identifies, prioritizes, and engages with its community reflect its evolution. This paper tries to provide a more systematic understanding of university-community engagement in terms of the university’s contribution to society, using SI as a way to address unmet social needs, find sustainable solutions to complex social problems, and develop a social economy.
Higher education, social innovation, societal challenges, sustainability culture, community engagement.