The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has appointed UVic professor Budd Hall as co-chair of community-based research and social responsibility in higher education. Hall is a professor of community development in UVic’s School of Public Administration; his proposal to UNESCO was unique in suggesting two people share the position over the four-year term.
“The title of our chair is ‘community-based research,’ and community-based research means partnership between university people and community people,” says Hall. “It recommends that people working in non-governmental organizations, community organizations, social movements and so forth — they are also creating knowledge.”
Rajesh Tandon, the president of the Society of Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) in India, shares the position with Hall and brings the perspective of a non-governmental organization in the global south. PRIA has ties with UVic through internships and the master’s of community development program, which sends students to India for several weeks.
Usually this chair is held by a person from a university in any of the 195 UNESCO member states or eight associate members. This is the first time the chair is held by two people.
“We also wanted to symbolize north-south co-operation, and not just say it in words. So we’ve institutionalized that by having the chair co-led,” says Hall.
The role of the UNESCO chair of community-based research and social responsibility in higher education is to build and strengthen global networks that universities, non-governmental organizations and policy-makers may use to create and share information pertaining to social and economic issues. The proposal that earned Hall and Tandon their nomination outlined three objectives: strengthen the capacity for community-based, joint research; identify effective partnership practices for less wealthy nations; and work with governments to incorporate this research into policy.
UVic’s School of Public Administration held a day-long seminar at IdeaFest (the March 4–15 festival featuring research from within UVic) called “An international symposium on knowledge democracy.” At the opening of the symposium in Cadboro Commons on March 5, Tandon spoke about the growing significance of the knowledge economy, saying that by 2030, the majority of the world’s Gross Domestic Product will come from information-based industries.
“Knowledge democracy is a concept we work with in our chair,” says Hall. He says that the world cannot progress if it relies on the current monoculture of knowledge. “As long as the dominant knowledge system — numbers, Western, male, Euro-centric, rational — is behind the teaching in places like the University of Victoria or any university, it’s obviously not doing the job.”
Hall says that higher education around the world needs to work with an “ecology of knowledge” that recognizes a broader world of knowledge systems, such as indigenous teachings and history.
The co-chairs work in collaboration with UNESCO’s education department, as well as the Global Alliance on Community University Engagement that includes PRIA and similar organizations in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Europe, and networks in Canada like Community-Based Research Canada and government-funded research organizations.
“The reason we’re able to be here at UVic is because there’s a strong base of faculty and students who are not only interested in, but doing community-based research,” says Hall of the co-chair that is under his direction in Canada. “We wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t have gotten this chair if it were not for the fact that UVic is a place that’s beginning to be very well known in other parts of the world as a campus that’s friendly to community-based research and supports students and faculty that want to do this kind of work.”