Universities are embedded within local communities of business companies, NGOs, local associations, cities and other stakeholders, and should not operate in isolation. However, many local researchers work in isolation on a theoretical level without connection to problems of practice in their field, and many students lack practical working experience, while local business and social partners need innovation and the connection to science in order to be as competitive and innovative as possible.
University’s Social Responsibility (USR) has been – as a concept – derived from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and is about managing these relationships to produce an overall positive impact on society with research, development and higher education. CSR has been applied to businesses & companies, but rarely to universities. It involves responsible acting in three pillars: PEOPLE: social component / PLANET: environmental component /PROFIT: economic component.
Universities must seek to strengthen their public commitment to the city they are located in, the local economy and to the wider society through their research and higher education activities in order to have a real impact on their local communities and to improve the relevance of higher education in society. To date this potential and impact of universities on local communities is to a large extent unexploited.
Therefore the UNIBILITY-project ("university meets social responsibility") aims at strengthening the relationships of universities with their local communities through USR-activities. Specifically the project will develop strategies how universities can increase their social responsibility actively on student and researcher level, it will develop and implement USR service learning projects impacting the local community in the area of environmental, social or economic research, and will develop a USR-Curriculum and train university management and students with it. Also learning networks between universities and local business partners will be created.
The specific aims of the project are: