University research has the potential to help solve the grand challenges of the 21st century through local and global engagement. Universities are quintessentially socially engaged institutions that have been supported by external patrons because their activities are socially useful, and that has expanded recently in the context of an emerging global knowledge society. The rise of the Grand Challenges and the adoption by the UN of their sustainable development goals as the overarching societal development challenge for humanity provide a clear articulation of how university research must be responsive to and responsible for creating the necessary knowledge base to solve these challenges. There are a range of emerge models of engaging with citizens locally to allow them to express the ways these problems impact upon their local communities to universities as a first step in the research necessary to solve those problems. But there is a risk in trying to upscale these activities into strategic university goals in crowding out. It is university scholars engaged with communities that will deliver improved local engagement, and universities need to find ways to empower these engaged scholars to stimulate their societal contributions, not creating elaborate internal structures and global networks.
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