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Notes for presentation by IAU Secretary General, Eva Egron-Polak
I hope that I speak on behalf of our partners and colleagues as well as the leadership of the IAU,
when I say that we have had a very rich and enjoyable and I hope productive conversation.
The GMA’s are not designed as traditional conferences; they are small and though we invite experts
and university leaders, we organize them for sharing and mutual learning - it is not expected that
someone can provide us with the answer to our questions. Rather, we go home with several possible
answers, some knowledge of examples that have been tested and developed elsewhere, a head full of
new ideas, and our hearts full of new thoughts.
I am very happy that these two days, we focused almost equally on the diagnostic of the challenges
that needed to be overcome for higher education to increase its role in social innovation, - recognition
in academe, challenges of inter-disciplinarity, the need to learn more about how best to work with
actors, partners and stakeholders in the broader civil society, so some of the challenges but also many
of the successful and innovative initiatives that you have undertaken or that you have seen developed
in your institutions.
At times we were slipping in to the all or almost all negative view of the current university world, but
the discussion almost always brought some balance and a light at the end of a tunnel. The fact that
research funders are supportive in Canada, that LA universities are creating Labs, that we are all
calling for a greater voice given to students and to the learning experiences that students gain when
they can work and learn with community actors.
As I expected and underlined in the beginning of our meeting – we have been enriched by the
diversity of the participants – we learned from each intervention about some contextual issue that
needed to be considered when developing social innovation actions – whether it was with regard to
the level of trust enjoyed by universities, or the level of capacity to engage on the part of
communities, or the extent to which agencies that support research or international development are
ready to give priority to social innovation and the co-development of innovation and research.
Clearly, we all agreed and several speakers stressed this point – we must solve old problems with
new solutions. This is not a new realization – I never met Einstein but he is often quoted as saying,
"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."
This general consensus allowed us, I believe, to agree as well, that to address this reality, means and
requires a paradigmatic shift in the way we conceive learning, research and our third mission. While
some of you feel that this requires a new culture of what I would call social responsibility, social
2. IAU Secretariat - UNESCO House – 1, rue Miollis, F-75732 Paris Cedex 15, France – Tel : +33 (0)1 45 68 48 00 – Fax : +33 (0) 1 47 34 76 05 – email@example.com - www.iau-aiu.net
engagement, and a variety of actions that can fall under the broad umbrella concept of social
I think we were challenged and challenged ourselves, to remain analytical, self-critical of trends and
developments including our view of where and how knowledge is created. Most importantly, we
were inspired to be respectful and to listen – to people from other cultures, from other social
institutions, from other linguistic groups and traditions and to ensure that rather than divorcing and
building silos; we find ways to marry and build bridges.
Let’s make sure we do that in our day to day personal and professional lives.
Let me end this event with some important words of thanks.
First thank you for being with us and sharing your insights and knowledge with us.
Thank you to the interpreters whom we never saw but who allowed us to understand one another and
I would also like to thank the members of the Programme Committee who represented our partner
organizations, starting with M. Guy Lefebvre, Vice-recteur aux Relations internationales et a la
Francophonie; M. Claude Bedard, Directeur général du Bureau de cooperation inter-universitaire; et
Mme Patricia Gudiño, la Secrétaire générale de l’OUI.
Special thanks go to Mrs Rachida Azdouz, Conseillère principale en développement stratégique, dans
le Bureau des relations internationales de l’Université de Montréal.
But let me also thank my own colleagues, starting with Élodie Boisfer, Trine Jensen, Isabelle
Turmaine and Hilligje van’t Land for their hard work in all the different areas that are all needed for
this kind of meeting to succeed.
Their hard work and excellent support is much appreciated.