SFU is Canada’s leading comprehensive research university (Maclean’s ranking 2015). With campuses in British Columbia’s three largest cities – Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey – SFU has eight faculties and delivers almost 150 programs to over 35,000 students.
The core vision at SFU is to be Canada’s leading engaged research university, and we work to achieve that across the full spectrum of activity: embedding and engaging our academic programs with our communities, encouraging research that partners with and impacts communities and local business, and through extensive community service. With Community-Based Research as a central pillar of the new Strategic Research Plan (2016-2020), SFU will expand support for university/community projects. Areas of concern include: health, the environment, economics, politics, education, culture and social justice issues.
For example, SFU’s researchers use technologies to foster collaboration and help communities develop new ways to engage with the world. Digital games, for instance, foster intergenerational education opportunities, and help communities imagine new futures where societies address issues of social justice and climate change. Likewise, understanding individual dynamics affected by culture, language, and community connections creates a living lab that helps leverage technology to enhance student support and learning. Combining science and art with the human experience fosters effective interactions in response to community challenges. In an effort to connect people with their cultural heritage and help them trace historical milestones that have shaped their communities, SFU’s digitization projects with BC’s Indigenous, Chinese-Canadian, Indo-Canadian, and Japanese-Canadian communities bring social justice issues to the forefront and ask how we can promote inclusivity across all communities in Canada. Likewise, the protection of cultural heritage is a key concern for many communities. Ancestral sites, artifacts, languages, and knowledge are an integral part of individual and community identities. Working in partnership with local Indigenous communities to preserve cultural heritage creates a model of research where communities are not only respected, but also retain control over their cultural activities and legacies through the research process.
A number of SFU-based centres support this engagement. RADIUS (RADical Ideas, Useful to Society) is a unique community-based social innovation lab and venture incubator launched by SFU’s Beedie School of Business in 2013. Other Beedie student accelerator programs include Change Lab for addressing social and environmental challenges, and Technology Entrepreneurship @SFU offered in partnership with the BC Innovation Council to create market-driven technology products.
Innovation Boulevard is a partnership founded by SFU and the City of Surrey that is driving the development of health technologies, jobs, and academic-industry partnerships. SFU’s Digital Health Hub, an Innovation Boulevard partner, is using advanced computing and applied research to provide mobile health technologies and innovative care solutions for real-world applications.
SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement is an educational, cultural and community building resource that engages the public sphere, the local First Nations community and the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood, supporting creative engagement, knowledge mobilization and public programming in the theme areas of arts and culture, social and environmental justice, and urban issues.
SFU recently established a Refugee Working Group to develop, coordinate and implement the University’s refugee-related engagement and support. The Refugee Working Group provides advice, connections and information on refugee students, community engagement and research. With aspiration to be one of the region’s primary facilitators of knowledge mobilization, the SFU Surrey – TD Community Engagement Centre collaborates with community to foster mutually beneficial engagement and partnership between students, faculty and community groups to improve the educational, social, economic, environmental, cultural and physical health of BC’s South Fraser region.
Through structures that support and recognize community-based approaches, SFU continues to demonstrate its commitment to conducting research that is useful to community members in making positive social change.