Keynote Presentation

Community-University Engagement and the Challenge of Change

Dr. Rajesh Tandon
President, Society for Participatory Research in Asia
Chairperson, Global Alliance for Community Engaged Research (GACER)
Co-Chair, UNESCO Chair in Community-based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education

Increased community-university engagement will require significant changes from the status quo. The required changes are set within a global context of both progress and challenges that sees humanity at a crossroads. One example of a development that is both a symbol of progress and a significant challenge is that the dynamics of community are shifting from a mainly local context to a largely global context. This creates new expectations of higher education institutions (HEIs), expectations coming from an expanding and more diverse set of stakeholders. One such expectation is that HEIs will produce knowledge that will drive social transformation. Another is that HEIs will teach students to become ethical global citizens.

HEIs can meet this expanded set of expectations by incorporating community engagement into their core missions. It must figure in their policies, structures and capacities. HEIs must overcome the divide between their structures and the structures and capacities of the communities they engage with. They must take advantage of knowledge gained through the scholarship of engagement to build partnerships of mutuality and trust. By deepening and strengthening engaged scholarship they will be creating and practicing knowledge democracy.


Dr. Rajesh Tandon is an internationally acclaimed leader and practitioner of participatory research and development. He founded the Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA), a voluntary organization providing support to grass roots initiatives in South Asia, in 1982 and has been its chief functionary since then. Under his leadership, PRIA has developed numerous methodologies of participatory learning and training, participatory bottom-up micro-planning, and participatory monitoring and evaluation.

A PhD from Case Western Reserve University and an electronics engineer from IIT, Kanpur with a graduation in management (IIM, Calcutta), Dr. Tandon has specialized in social and organizational change. His contributions revolve around issues of participatory research, advocating for people centered development, policy reform and networking in India, South Asia and beyond. He has advocated for a self-reliant, autonomous and competent voluntary sector in India and abroad. Building alliances and partnerships among diverse sectors in societal development is another current area of his work.

He has served on numerous government task forces, committees and the boards of many civil society organizations. He is the founder and has been Chairperson of the Board of Directors of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation; Chairperson of The Global Alliance on Community-Engaged Research (GACER) network; Chair, External Advisory Committee, Office of Community Based Research (OCBR), University of Victoria, Canada; and has chaired the session on ‘University–Community Engagement for Societal Change and Development: Possibilities and Challenges’ at the UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education, July 5-8, 2009 at Paris. Currently he is the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Montreal International Forum (FIM), Montreal, Canada.

Dr. Tandon was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree by the University of Victoria in 2008.

Live Streaming

This session will be live streamed on Tuesday, October 7th, 2014, 9:15 AM - 10 AM. Please check back at the start time for this session.