Category: Anchor Institutions
UEP Colloquium: Reflections on Engaged Universities
| April 30, 2015 | 1:56 pm | Anchor Institutions, Colloquium | Comments closed

In the final installment of UEP’s Spring Colloquium Series on April 1, Lorlene Hoyt, Amy Newcomb Rowe, and Brianda Hernandez – Director of Programs and Research, Program Manager, and Graduate Assistant at the Tailloires Network, respectively – presented “Stories of Leadership from Engaged Universities Around the World.”  Hoyt opened the presentation by encouraging the audience to conceive of education as a political act, which can either propagate conformity or prepare students  to “participate in the transformation of their world.”

In supporting the latter ideal, the idea of an “Engaged University” stands in stark contrast to the popularized depiction of Academia as a remote and aloof province. Engaged Universities breach the walls of the insular Ivory Tower, instead focusing resources to address challenges of life, such as poverty, illiteracy, disease, and natural disaster. Globally, students from disadvantaged backgrounds are barred access to higher education by financial, social, and political barriers. In order to counter the inegalitarian trend, in 2005 Tufts University sponsored the formation of the Tailloires Network, a network of university representatives, community partners, and funders who believe in, and actively tether, the idea of the engaged university to the ground in different countries around the world. At its inception, the Tailloires Network’s members included 29 university heads from 23 countries; today, the network extends across 75 countries, with more than 340 university heads counted as members.

In order to allow audience members to more closely examine individual instances of Engaged Universities in practice, they split into three groups, each focusing on a story emerging from a TN partner institution located in the Global South: American University of Cairo (Egypt), Tecnológico de Monterrey (Mexico), and International Medical University (Malaysia). Despite the divergent social, cultural, and political contexts, each of the three stories presented described the risk and unpredictability inherent in working to break down entrenched inequalities; however, the stories also  demonstrated the rewards of these labors, such as self awareness, courage, and resilience. As stages of struggle for the advancement of public life, coupled with the vital resources which they contain, Universities have a unique and essential role to play in moving the larger society towards alignment with the values of justice and inequality. However, as the colloquium session demonstrated, such movement depends upon purposeful leadership and concerted collective action. The Talloires Network and its dedicated staff continue to build the capacity necessary to achieve the vision enshrined in the idea of the Engaged University.

Anchor Institutions Guest Speaker: Nick Iuviene
| November 10, 2014 | 9:12 pm | Anchor Institutions | Comments closed

Last Friday, Professor Lorlene Hoyt’s Anchor Institutions class hosted Nick Iuviene to talk about his work at MIT CoLab’s Just Urban Economies and the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative(BCDI). Iuviene is a graduate of MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, and before that worked as a community organizer in the Bronx.

His current work focuses on urban economic democracy. Specifically, the BCDI uses both bottom up and top down efforts to drive comprehensive economic development that builds the wealth, power and leadership skills of low and moderate income residents in one of the poorest congressional districts in the United States. Taking inspiration from Mondragon, of Spain’s Basque Country, and Cleveland, OH’s Evergreen Initiative, the BCDI seeks to apply many of the tools pioneered by these organizations within the context of the Bronx. Iuviene and fellow MIT CoLab staff, Yorman Nunez, are the program coordinators for this project.

The talk began with a brief history of the Mondragon Corporation and the Evergreen Initiative. Mondragon, the largest and perhaps best known worker cooperative organization in the world, has the benefit of over 60 years of development and network building, which has allowed it to prosper even in international markets. It is the importance of network building that Iuviene stressed the most. In a recent closure of one of Mondragon’s plants, he emphasized the “success in its failure”: the corporation guaranteed employees of the closed plant 80% of their salaries for 2 years, though they were all eventually retrained and rehired in new locations. The Evergreen Initiative has a much shorter history, and of course a very different social and geographic context. They utilize the strength of local anchor institutions to build on the model pioneered by Mondragon. They leverage the power and capacity of local hospitals to stabilize the rest of the city, which is currently experiencing high levels of poverty and unemployment. This fact, Iuviene stated, gives the Evergreen Initiative a more top down approach. A desire for a more grassroots approach and the lack of such strong regional anchor institutions is what differentiates the BCDI from its forerunners. In an effort to get local institutions involved, the BCDI had to show that local community organizations could actively build, rather than merely fight inequitable development projects. They have also attempted to aggregate smaller and medium sized nonprofits.

Current work focuses on an economic democracy leadership series in order to build capacity at the grassroots level. In its first stages coordinators were skeptical of the level of interest in the program, thinking that local people would have too many other things going on to be able to focus on learning new economic models. They were surprised when their trainings, designed for 20-30 people, were attended by over 50 people. They are currently in the process of creating an online web series to spread their leadership training model to other cities who could benefit from similar projects.

To end, Iuviene mentioned some organizations in Boston aiming at similar models of economic development. The Center for Economic Democracy and the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative are both looking at ways of implementing similar ideas in the Boston area.