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August 29, 2007

Co-organized by the Talloires Network, CLAYSS (Latin American Center for Service Learning) and the University of Buenos Aires

In anticipation of the 10th annual International Service Learning Conference in Buenos Aires August 30th and 31st, the Talloires Network organized a one day meeting to discuss how a global network such as Talloires might work with and support local, regional and national networks. The meeting was very well attended, with over 30 participants from across South America, Mexico, Spain, the U.S. and the U.K.

Key outcomes of the day-long meeting were:

  • Universities in Latin America are already forming networks with a focus on civic engagement and social responsibility. Talloires must be prepared to support their work and create partnerships with them.
  • Participants felt that a global network could be useful to members if it:
    • Fostered communication at all levels (among students, faculty and staff)
    • Created connections and a sense of community to help encourage those individuals working on these issues, particularly for those without a local support network.
    • Created opportunities for exchange of ideas virtually (website and blog) and in person exchanges for faculty, students and staff.
    • Created a community of experts who could share best practices for those developing or evaluating programs.



The Talloires Network meeting was organized to present the ideas and history behind the network to a wide audience of university representatives. The morning began with a welcome from Carlos Eroles, Undersecretary for Extension at the University of Buenos Aires, the host of the meeting. Maria Nieves Tapia, Coordinator of the National Program for Service Learning and academic director of CLAYSS, also welcomed the group as the key organizer of the meeting.

Talloires Network

The morning session aimed to give an overview of the Talloires Network and examples of other networks in Latin America. Prof. Robert Hollister, Dean of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University began by introducing the history and vision of the Talloires Network. Prof. Hollister also presented the idea of creating a “network of networks” to unite efforts around the world with a global movement, while maintaining focus on context-driven work. The “network of networks” proposal was created as a way to bridge regional efforts already underway with the global network created by Talloires. This proposal served as the main jumping-off point for the discussions of the afternoon session.

Following Prof. Hollister’s presentation (download the Powerpoint in English or Spanish ) was time for questions and general discussion concerning the Talloires Network. The audience was genuinely interested in the ideas proposed by Prof. Hollister. Of particular interest was the possibility of international exchange of best practices. Monica Jiménez de la Jara, Rector of the Catholic University of Temuco , Chile said that when she began her work in higher education and community engagement, she felt alone. When she found a community of others doing similar work, this was transformational. She, therefore, supported the idea of joining with a global network, while still maintaining a focus on local networks and their efforts.

Carlos Eroles, the Undersecretary for Extension at the University of Buenos Aires echoed support for the Talloires Network and hoped that UBA would join the network. He stated that education is a fundamental human right and that access by all students, especially disabled students, was very important to him personally.

Other participants in the meeting wanted to know if membership was open to all institutions, including technical schools. Prof. Hollister emphasized that the membership of the Network was diverse and open to all higher education institutions. However, he did indicate that it is the head of the institution that must commit to membership, rather than individual faculties or colleges.

Student participation in the network was a key point of discussion during the question and answer. One participant pointed out that many youth in Argentina don’t care much about their own social formation. Still others that do care don’t have access to resources or can’t enter a university to study. This participant felt that it would be very important for the Talloires Network to support students and youth.

Prof. Hollister with faculty from Universidad Nacional de La Plata
Prof. Hollister with faculty members of the Universidad Nacional de La Plata

International, national and regional networks

Following Prof. Hollister’s presentation, Prof. María Nieves Tapia introduced the Ibero-american Network for Service Learning . This network is open to any type of organization, such as universities, non-profits or technical schools. They work together to develop strategies for international collaboration on service-learning projects. By sharing a common goal and seeking funding in a unified way, they are able to amplify their efforts. Because of the multi-lingual composition of the organization, they are also working toward the translation of all their materials to further their impact.

The Network “Construye País ” was presented by Dr. Mónica Jiménez, Rector of the Catholic University of Temuco. This network brings together Chilean universities to work to strengthen their commitment to social responsibility. It is seven years old and continues to grow and strengthen over time.

Dr. Jiménez described how the university has a civic role to work with people outside its boundaries, not just faculty and students. At the heart of the mission of any university of to improve the human condition. She stated that this is particularly relevant for the Catholic University of Temuco as over 70% of its students are first generation university students. Dr. Jiménez also discussed how it was a long process to build up support for the network and to bring these ideas into acceptance in Chile.

Following these two presentations, there was general discussion about the contributions a network like Talloires could make globally. Dr. Eroles made the point that teaching, learning and research need to be infused with a civic engagement component. It has been a mistake in the past that universities considered civic engagement separately from the core mission of the university.

Daniel Goncalves of AlfaSol , a literacy organization in Brazil, stated that institution wide support is necessary for any civic engagement program to be sustainable. It must be a part of the curriculum and supported centrally if the program is to succeed. Prof. Tapia agreed, stating that all levels of the institution must be in support of these efforts.

Student voices

In the afternoon session, students from Argentina and Venezuela presented civic engagement projects both at a university and a non-profit that works with youth and universities.

The first student from the University of Buenos Aires, Faculty of Engineering presented on their service-learning project to produce affordable housing that is efficient, safe and green for local communities living in poverty. He described how the project aimed to impact and influence both the student engineers and the community partners. As a successful model of service-learning, the project provided an opportunity for relevant and exciting research and project development for the engineering students.

The second presentation was by Vanessa Franco of Opción Venezuela , a non-partisan, nonprofit organization of students and professionals working with public and private universities to better their communities and society. The organization has existed for over 5 years and has been very successful in creating partnerships between students, universities and communities. Vanessa described the law in Venezuela requiring all students to complete 120 hours of community service. The law came into effect in September of 2005 and has helped to promote the civic role of students and their host universities within Venezuela.

Group work

Following the student presentations, the participants entered directly in to a discussion on the following topics:

  • What challenges does your institution face in strengthening its civic engagement and social responsibility?
  • How are you overcoming these challenges?
  • How could an international network help you overcome these challenges?
  • How would membership in regional or national networks relate to and function with membership in an international network like Talloires?
  • What could you bring to an international network?

Group discussion
The participants divided up into 3 groups and conducted in depth discussion of these questions. Each group then chose one representative to present the groups key outcomes. The following is a summary of all the group outcomes:

  • Communication is a key issue for regional and a global network
    • The network must serve as a hub for exchange of information, including contact information for all members, tools, articles and news items, and other types of information distributed via the web
    • The information must be disseminated horizontally and vertically and must reach students
    • The network must help facilitate local connections
    • The network must produce materials in multiple languages
  • Best practices and technical expertise
    • The network must supply toolkits and examples of best practices
    • The network should connect practitioners with similar interests
    • The network should help match expertise with programs in need of technical assistance
  • Building the movement
    • The network should foster a sense of community by providing real and virtual opportunities to connect

Summary of Group Session

Following the group representatives’ presentations, Prof. Hollister and Prof. Tapia gave summaries of the day’s discussion and outcomes.

Prof. Tapia thanked the group for their thoughtful contributions. She emphasized how one of the biggest successes was the sharing of rich information and the chance to test and exchange ideas. She noted the growing scale of cooperation around civic issues in higher education, but also the diversity of ideas. She proposed that it might even be helpful to do a glossary of terms in civic engagement in multiple languages and noted the differences even within Spanish. This diversity lends richness to the field, she noted. Prof. Tapia pointed out that the great socio-economic inequalities in Latin America make service work so important. And, she noted, though there has been much success in the field, it is increasingly important to evaluate the effectiveness of programs. It is in this work that the sharing of best practices could be particularly helpful.

Prof. Hollister also drew on the theme of diversity, emphasizing how the group assembled shared a common goal and vision in their civic work, but pursued it in diverse ways. Preserving and valuing this diversity is a key goal for the Talloires Network. He also reiterated the network’s desire to improve and foster communication by translating materials via the website and sharing information comprehensively with the members. Prof. Hollister noted the importance of working both with the leaders of institutions to create comprehensive change and also working with students and faculty to ensure information is shared broadly. He proposed that the network further explore student exchange programs and other modes of connection. Finally, the need to validate and promote this work still exists and the network could be catalytic in this area. By supporting work at other institutions and creating recognition internationally for excellence, the network could help push the movement forward.

Closing Remarks

Carlos Eroles, Under Director of Extension at UBA, thanked all the participants and noted with optimism the increase in civic engagement work. He also encouraged the group to continue to do more to realize the vision of education as a universal human right. In closing, he emphasized the power of higher education to change society for the better and wished all the participants success in their work.