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Out of necessity, civically engaged universities around the world are restructuring their research, teaching, and service priorities and practices to address urgent local challenges. The Talloires Network of Engaged Universities and Open Society University Network have joined forces to support and learn with these "frontline" leaders by listening to and documenting their stories. Throughout 2023, we brought together voices and perspectives from civic leaders at universities in Bangladesh, Chile, Ghana, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, and Pakistan as a working group, and they are creating the path forward by way of cross-border dialogue and exchange.

Dubbed Universities as Frontline Responders, this collaboration seeks to simultaneously document innovative practices at six participating universities as it encourages other universities around the world to lead as bold and nimble civic actors who partner with communities to respond swiftly and intelligently to unexpected societal challenges.

Universities as Frontline Responders included an international gathering of university network members and partners, university heads, student leaders, and leaders in philanthropy who together explored the evolving role of universities and shared different models of universities as frontline responders. In October 2023, nearly 50 participants, most from the Global Majority, convened in Madrid, Spain, to synthesize strategies and articulate a practical call for action to the international higher education sector.