“What have you done to make the world a better place?”
It’s a question we all ask ourselves at some point in our lives. It’s also the question driving some of the most important work happening in post-secondary education today.
Academics and institutions across Canada are collaborating with organizations from around the world to solve some of the globe’s most challenging problems. Many of these problems can be found in developing countries, where challenges related to education, healthcare, and infrastructure remain significant, although much progress has been made against difficult odds. Academics have taken a collaborative approach to addressing these challenges, working directly with individuals and organizations based in these countries to build the capacity they need to address these problems in the long term.
It was with the goal of supporting and organizing this crucial work that Academics Without Borders was founded.
“We believe that a critically important way to assist developing countries is to share academic expertise with their universities so they can develop their own leaders, experts and professionals,” says AWB Executive Director Greg Moran. “Educating people at home rather than abroad strengthens the ties to local culture and communities and makes it more likely that graduates will help design and execute the solutions to the challenges in their home countries.”
Academics Without Borders’ mission is to help developing countries improve their universities so that they can train their own experts and conduct research to assist in their countries’ development. AWB’s projects are involved in the full range of university activities, from expanding and improving existing institutions and programs to helping create new ones and broadly building community capacity. Further, they are driven by the generosity of AWB volunteers, who donate their time and efforts to ensure that project partners can reap the full benefits of their skills and knowledge.
These projects include developing capacity for family medicine training in Ethiopia, contributing to the planning of a centralized university in Rwanda, and creating educational opportunities for students with disabilities in Indonesia, among many others. In each case, AWB identifies and recruits volunteer experts from universities in Canada and elsewhere with the goal to facilitate and support community solutions within an agenda led by its project partners who are based in developing countries.
It is with an eye to generating more discussion and action in this area of global development that AWB is set to host Reaching Across Borders, Building a Better World, which will take place November 5 to 7, 2018, in Montreal. This first-of-its-kind event will gather academic experts from around the world together with representatives from government, post-secondary leadership, NGOs, and the private sector to explore how academics and their institutions can help developing countries care for their citizens and build their economies. This work will involve sharing case studies, successes and failures, and best practices, as well as working directly with representatives from institutions in developing countries to co-create new approaches to longstanding and emerging social and economic challenges.
“For years now, Canadian post-secondary institutions have enjoyed a very positive relationship with countries from around the world by recruiting the best and brightest from these countries and providing them with a world-class education,” notes Moran. “This positive relationship also creates challenges, however. Reaching Across Borders, Building a Better World will treat such challenges as opportunities for Canadian institutions and academics to build greater reciprocity with these countries. This means sharing knowledge and expertise with experts and leaders in those countries to enable them to build the prosperous and stable communities and societies they seek.”
The themes of this conference will cover areas such as:
• Access to quality higher education
• Strengthened institutional governance, management, and teaching
• Social innovation/enterprise development
• Work and economic growth
• Gender equity
• Clean water and sanitation
• Functional cities and other necessities of a civil, prosperous society
Moran believes that while academics and post-secondary institutions have being doing important work in these areas for years, more coordination is needed to fully harness the incredible power of Canada’s academic expertise to reach across borders and build a better world. This work forms part of an essential mission for Canada’s post-secondary sector, bolstering a global approach to education and social challenges that is as urgent and important today as it’s ever been.
You can learn more about Reaching Across Borders, Building a Better World, at the following link.