Giving Compass' Take:

The author argues that college professors and researchers need to consider more partnerships in their local communities while working on innovative research. Their work should include relevant individuals beyond the institution in order to advance social change and serve the public.

How can philanthropy support researchers who spend more time on these partnerships?

Read about how more colleges are offering philanthropy courses to their students, teaching them early on about the importance of social impact work.

Over the last decade, universities have faced steady criticism for elitist practices such as political bias, hoarding wealthy endowments, and providing insufficient economic returns for students. In light of this, institutions that turn their attention to serving the public good may be best poised to thrive and deliver lasting value.

Some universities are embarking on innovations to support social engagement among students, and initiating university-wide efforts to educate students for social impact.

Some writers argue that social science research fails to break into the mainstream because it is not sufficiently timely, relevant, or accessible—and that is no doubt part of the story. But studies about the use of research paint a more complex picture.

More than any quality of the evidence itself, it turns out that the quality of relationships between producers and consumers of evidence, as well as the intermediaries who knit evidence producers and consumers together, is at the heart of increasing research use in policy and practice.

Universities do not typically reward faculty for the time and effort needed to build and nurture these relationships, but doing so would be a transformative step in increasing the positive social impact of academic research.

Without support at the institutional level, most university researchers have little professional incentive to participate in such partnerships or address questions more in line with local contexts. It is time for this to change. Ultimately, pursuing positive social impact by harnessing the talent and knowledge of university faculty can turn around perceptions of the value of higher education. But faculty will need to become more fully engaged in directly responding to real-world problems.

Read the full article about social impact work at universities by  Adam Gamoran at Stanford Social Innovation Review