The creation of the UTS Social Impact Framework: A collaborative approach for transformational change

UTSePress, University of Technology, Sydney
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Gateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement, 2019, 12 (2), pp. 1 - 22
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
The relationship between education and public purpose has been historical and remains fundamental to the core mission of the higher education sector. Alongside the growth of engaged scholarship and practice, increasing and, at times, competing forces work to influence institutional focus and direction. Key amongst these are global university ranking systems, which have begun to shift their gaze beyond traditional notions of academic excellence to also consider impact and engagement. The tension between external and internal drivers for social engagement can fragment institutional focus and undermine community impact. In the face of this challenge, holistic institutional frameworks that systemically and culturally underpin, enable and make inherent engaged scholarship remain scarce. Their absence risks marginalising engaged university practice, teaching and research, thereby limiting the potential impact of universities. This article aims to address this gap in the literature by examining the question of how universities can create a whole-of-institution approach to their public purpose agenda. Using the University of Technology Sydney as a case, the development of the UTS Social Impact Framework is shared here. We detail the use of Appreciative Inquiry and Theory of Change as underpinning participatory methodologies that have resulted in a systems approach to change, based on institutional strengths. The resulting framework articulates a shared vision and outlines a guiding roadmap encompassing six domains of change, expressed as outcomes, and an additional three preconditions. Woven together, these create a robust image of the systemic and cultural dynamics needed to realise the shared vision of the university, ensuring that contribution to social outcomes remains a core mission of this higher education institution. The adopted approach used in this study can inform the development of contextually relevant frameworks across the sector, with potential to reposition engagement, beyond an aspect of practice, as a systemic precondition that enables broader social change.
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