Zwei Personen laufen nebeneinander auf das Schloss der Uni Mannheim zu. Eine Person zieht einen schwarzen Koffer, während die andere Person eine Tasche sowien einen Globus trägt.

Conference Societal Outreach

„Moving Forward? Envisioning Societal Outreach for the Fifth Generation University”

Between 12–14 October 2023, the University of Mannheim hosted a conference dedicated to Societal Outreach, a critical element within the ENGAGE.EU alliance’s mission. This conference aimed to share the understanding, commitment, and achievements in the field and foster collaboration among universities for their third mission – Societal Outreach.

The conference commenced on the 12th of October with a warm welcome from key figures, including Thomas Puhl, the President of the University of Mannheim; Ursula Schlichter, ENGAGE.EU’s management officer; Hiram Kümper and Julia Derkau as the Conference Chairs; and Dr. Eva Dade, the Head of European University Alliances at the Ministry of Science, Research and Arts in Baden-Württemberg.

In his keynote lecture, Hiram Kümper from the University of Mannheim highlighted the importance of the alliance’s commitment to opening its universities and the knowledge they produce to civil society in order to address complex global challenges and fulfill their mission in their respective regional innovation ecosystems and beyond. Utilizing the concept of the Fourth Generation University model, his presentation served as a jumping-off point for detailed examinations of the innovative potential, the challenges and obstacles as well as ethical considerations that shape the institutions of the ENGAGE.EU alliance on their way to a future Fifth Generation University model.

Representatives from the partner institutions, which included Chief Assistant Prof. Dr. Violeta Toncheva-Zlatkova from UNWE Sofia in Bulgaria; Associate Professor Björn Schmeisser from NHH Bergen in Norway; Prof. Dr. Dike van de Mheen from Tilburg University in the Netherlands; Ana Godonoga from WU Vienna in Austria; Flavio Michele Ceci from Luiss in Rome, Italy; Sergei Kopytin from Hanken Business School in Helsinki, Finland; and Julia Derkau from the University of Mannheim, Germany, presented their respective institutions’ approaches to societal outreach and engagement, ranging from collaborations with civil society and non-profit organizations to the exchange of knowledge, practices and ideas with government stakeholders and businesses. The conference was completed with rich discussions and an engaging exchange of ideas with Henning Hillmann, Vice President for Research and Early-Stage Researchers at the University of Mannheim, on the bridge between societal outreach and the research branches of ENGAGE.EU.

One of the common threads in these discussions was all partners’ commitment to ethical and sustainable practices going beyond traditional education and research paradigms and their focus on enabling individuals, networks and organizations to thrive in an everchanging global landscape. Higher education, in this understanding, is redefined to emphasize community engagement, partnerships and innovation beyond the universities’ walls with the explicit goal of contributing to the betterment of society through their actions and initiatives. Existing projects (as well as such that are in the development stage at our partner institutions) therefore need to involve diverse stakeholders and respond to the growing complexity of the challenges that they raise. One of the challenges that were discussed in the presentations was the lack of robust methodologies for higher education institutions to rely upon in their efforts to bridge theory and practice with regard to Campus-Community Partnerships (CCP).

In order to address this gap, the alliance will publish a volume on methodologies, practices and experiences in their societal outreach activities, taking into account challenges such as the dynamics between various stakeholders, differences in organizational cultures and role perceptions, knowledge hierarchies, resource disparities and others. Be sure to keep an eye out for the book which will come out in 2024.

Impressions from the conference

The conference is financed by the Ministry of Science, Research and Arts Baden-Württemberg.

Julia Derkau

Julia Derkau

Leitung Bereich Bildungsinnovation & Projektleitung TransforMA
University of Mannheim
Zentrum für Lehrerbildung und Bildungsinnovation
Schloss – Room EO 084
68161 Mannheim