Talloires Network Committed to Civic Engagement in Higher Education Reaches 100 Members Worldwide

The Talloires Network — an international association of institutions committed to strengthening the civic roles and social responsibilities of higher education —reached 100 members last week. Today’s Guest Author John Pollock is the Talloires Network Service Fellow at Innovations in Civic Participation.

CGIU Group Photo

Talloires Network students and President Bacow at Clinton Global Initiative University in 2008

On May 14, 2009, the Talloires Network reached 100 members when the University of Richmond signed the Talloires Declaration on the Civic Roles and Social Responsibilities of Higher Education and joined the Network.

This represents an important milestone for the Talloires Network which began in September 2005 when President Lawrence Bacow of Tufts University convened the Talloires Conference, the first international gathering of the heads of universities devoted to strengthening civic engagement in higher education. The meeting brought together 29 university presidents, rectors and vice chancellors from 23 countries.

These international leaders in higher education drafted the Talloires Declaration on the Civic Roles and Social Responsibilities of Higher Education. All signatories of the Declaration have committed their institutions to educating for social responsibility and civic engagement, and to strengthening the application of university resources to the needs of local and global communities.

As stated by the Declaration,

“Our institutions recognize that we do not exist in isolation from society, nor from the communities in which we are located. Instead, we carry a unique obligation to listen, understand and contribute to social transformation and development.”

One of the recommendations of the Declaration was to create an international network to inform and support all signatories’ efforts to carry out the Declaration’s goals. This recommendation was realized with the launch of the Talloires Network in 2005. The Network strives to build a global movement of civically engaged and socially responsible higher-education institutions. The Network advocates for the expansion of civic engagement activities and promotes the most promising practices from its members and others in the field of higher education.

The Network accomplishes these goals  in a number of ways:

  • It gathers and disseminates the best resources and tools in the field;
  • organizes regional and global conferences to share ideas, encourage collaboration and expand impact;
  • recognizes and promotes members’ civic engagement activities;
  • awards the annual MacJannet Prize for Global Citizenship to exceptional student civic engagement programs; and
  • facilitates the creation of regional networks of universities dedicated to civic engagement in order to make its work more relevant and driven by local contexts.

Since the 2005 Conference, the Talloires Network has expanded to include 100 members that represent a diverse segment of higher education around the world, and includes institutions in 38 countries on six continents. Membership includes 70 public and 30 private universities, 13 religious universities, five women’s colleges and universities, and four open universities specializing in distance and e-learning. Members’ student enrollments range from the hundreds to over one million, and the combined enrollment of member institutions is nearly 3.5 million.

Pres. Bacow

Lawrence Bacow

“The 100 members of the Talloires Network reflect the great diversity of higher education around the globe,” says President Bacow, who chairs the Talloires Network Steering Committee. “What has brought our institutions together is a shared commitment to advancing our civic roles and social responsibility. Every new member of the Network brings fresh ideas and resources from which all of us can learn.”

The number and diversity of membership illustrates the growing momentum of the global movement for socially engaged universities and for civic engagement of young people worldwide. There are more than 110 million students enrolled in higher education institutions, over half of which are in the developing world. This enormous cohort of talented and energetic young people, along with the academic, financial and technical assets of their universities, can have a huge positive impact on their local, regional and global communities.

Increasingly, higher education institutions and their societies are recognizing the incredible potential universities have to confront social problems and drive local development. Now is the time to capitalize on this momentum and expand investment in opportunities for engaging universities and students for meeting critical community needs.

In engaging with their societies and gearing their teaching, research and service to concrete community needs, universities can also provide students with relevant and practical experiences that will make them more competitive in today’s labor markets, as well as instilling in them a sense of civic responsibility that will inform their actions throughout life. Thus, community engagement has joined teaching and research as one of the three pillars of the university’s mission in many parts of the world. Through the efforts of the Talloires Network and its growing membership, this recognition of the civic roles and social responsibilities of higher education will continue to grow, changing communities all over the world for the better.

Innovations in Civic Participation and the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University serve as the secretariat of the Talloires Network. For more information about the Network and how to join, please visit the Talloires Network website or contact Elizabeth Babcock, the Talloires Network Coordinator by email babcock [at] icicp.org or phone (202-775-0290).

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