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What actions are needed to shift the way that universities behave?

Published Date: 17 October 2018

Last week, as part of the European Commission funded project - SEASIN - we brought together practitioners and researchers from South East Asia and beyond at SI-LIVE ASIA in Kuala Lumpur. Over two days, the event explored three major challenges faced by universities today in helping prepare for the future:

  • Rethinking research and practice: how do we build shared knowledge and better connect research and practice?

  • Rethinking learning: how do universities interact more with their wider communities, and help people prepare for the real world?

  • Rethinking systems: how do we create the space to help universities as institutions transform? How do we shift systems?

During SI-LIVE ASIA, SIX hosted a talk show on creating spaces and changing structures: how universities can change their systems. We brought together the perspectives from across the university structure - leadership, management, academia, student - as well as the perspectives of three external organisations that work with universities: British Council Hong Kong, The Good Lab and School of Changemakers.

Here are our speakers’ reflections on what one action universities could take to shift their behaviour and incorporate more social innovation.


Phonchan Kraiwatnutsorn, Founder and Managing Director at School of Changemakers

Active listening workshops that create time and space for those across universities to work together is key! One of the hardest challenges within universities is having the time and skill to listen to each other.


Chloe Tee, student at Sunway University

Changes should come from the people we learn from - lecturers. It can be something as simple as incorporating short videos on social topics into the breaks within long lectures that will spark interest in students.


Dr. Faizah Majid, Faculty of Education Dean at Universiti Teknologi MARA

I want to focus on changing the mindset of lecturers and helping integrate social innovation into their curriculums.


Mark Anderson, Director of the Europe Office at Glasgow Caledonian University  

I think it’s important to professionalise the support for social innovation within universities. Innovation has become a part of a university’s DNA - the same needs to happen with social innovation.


Simon Teasdale, Professor of Public Policy and Organisations at Glasgow Caledonian University  

Universities shouldn’t impose social innovation onto lecturers’ curriculums - it just becomes another box to tick. Instead, lecturers should listen more to students.


Christopher Ng, Head of English for Education Systems at British Council Hong Kong

It’s essential to enhance their transparency and finding where the commonality of all university stakeholders lie. Universities should stop being as guarded about their research and share more.


Ada Wong, Founder and Convenor at The Good Lab

Universities should ‘leapfrog’ and ‘mainstream’. We need to embed in young people going through the higher education system 21st century skills so that they become natural problem solvers when they graduate. We need to bring social innovation into universities’ innovation departments and unite techies and social innovators - we need more techies to talk about smart cities and social innovators to ask the question ‘who are smart cities for?’


SI LIVE ASIA helped spark a dialogue between researchers and practitioners about the role that universities should play in the future. Students are often keen to find ways to help tackle the biggest challenges that societies face today, and universities are hotbeds of cutting-edge research and innovation. Yet as institutions, they are often hard to innovate and change, with traditional hierarchies and governing structures. If they want to become more than academic institutions, and more in touch with the communities around them, universities need to find better ways to harness the energy of students, researchers and practitioners to improve society and direct innovation towards social change.


The framing for SI-LIVE ASIA came from a report SIX wrote last September on Five ways universities are organising themselves to increase societal impact. To find out more about the SEASIN project, please visit the website.


What are you working on already that you’d like to feature on the SEASIN website to share with others working on social innovation in research/practice? If you would like to contribute to SEASIN, sign up to the newsletter or get in touch!