Cape Town Conference Charts Future Directions

When delegates from engaged universities around the world came to Cape Town for the Talloires Network’s third international conference on December 2-4, 2014, there were significant differences compared to the previous event in Madrid in 2011.

Although the social, economic, and environmental crises facing society remained sadly familiar – inequality, poverty, disease, and youth unemployment to name but a few – the response of the Talloires Network and the broader movement of engaged universities to these challenges has moved ahead. The Cape Town conference symbolized this in several ways.

Participation by the Global South was higher in terms of both people attending and program content, and this was not all. For the first time, the conference was organized in a country of the Global South too. The presence of a large contingent of young people enriched the debate with the aspirations and experiences of students from 20 countries. Conference programing reflected the global movement’s sharper focus on preparing students for jobs and entrepreneurship as well as on how to link education to economic development and make it a force for active citizenship and social change.

Many people took advantage of the presence at the conference of colleagues from distant locations to hold parallel meetings and drive forward their joint projects. Foundations and academic associations used the event as a platform to give visibility to major new initiatives. Partner networks invited new members to join them, while heads of universities explored setting up new regional networks.

This report, written by University World News, Talloires Network’s media partner for the event, attempts to give a flavor of the excitement of this meeting of minds – highlighting some of the trends and innovative ideas in higher education civic engagement as seen by the protagonists, rather than providing a blow-by-blow account of who said what in which order. It contains comments and opinion gathered both at the conference and in interviews conducted in the run-up to the event. We hope you find it useful. TNLC2014 Report Final