Student researchers from the School of Environmental Sustainability-Loyola University Chicago explore new methods to restore biologically-diverse wetlands.
A key action in effective networking is to broaden partnerships beyond institutions and Conferences. Higher education institutions in the US have greatly contributed in responding to socio-ecological concerns, especially where their research processes integrate with community needs.
Linking with networks such as the International Association of Jesuit Universities (IAJU) is crucial, particularly with its Environmental and Economic Justice Task Force and its involvements with Healing Earth, Laudato Si’ Universities (University Pathways), and Loyola University Chicago’s annual Climate Change Conference, among others.
Participants to the Ecojesuit Meeting 2023 listened to an online session by Dr. Nancy Tuchman, Founding Dean of the School of Environmental Sustainability-Loyola University Chicago, entitled Building collaboration between the social and education apostolate in promoting economic and ecological justice. Dr Tuchman’s session explored ways to build linkages and explore broader collaboration in promoting socio-ecological justice through engagements with higher education institutions.
Dr Tuchman reminded the Ecojesuit participants that the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat (SJES) mapped over 250 social centers worldwide that focused on 14 thematic issues. These include advocacy and action, ecology and environmental justice, Indigenous Peoples and minorities, migration and displacement, among others.
Most of these areas also align with IAJU’s six general priorities that are animated by specific Task Force teams: global citizenship; inter-religious dialogue; environmental and economic justice; solidarity with migrants and refugees; peace and reconciliation; and inspirational paradigm for Jesuit business education. These IAJU priorities are shared concerns of social and education apostolates and can be the basis for collaboration in responding to socioecological challenges.
Dr. Tuchman further elaborated on this collaboration where universities have research programs that help analyze social issues taken up by students who have the time and willingness to engage in local experiences. On the other hand, social justice centers are directly connected with communities and have experienced people working on the ground.
She noted that there are several barriers that hinder cross-apostolate collaboration:
- There may be minimal communication between the social and education apostolates; neither may not know much about each other’s work.
- There may be biases and skepticism on the level of understanding of each other’s work.
- University researchers may come to the social justice centers with their research questions formed, rather than drawn from the questions generated by the social justice centers.
- The two institutions may not be in close proximity to enable sustained collaboration.
- The bandwidth of workers may be stretched such that collaboration opportunities are perceived as add-ons and therefore not a priority.
Dr. Tuchman then discussed opportunities in fostering collaboration between the social and education apostolates:
- Provincials can conduct Province-level meetings or retreats with social justice centers and universities to raise awareness of each other’s work, and facilitate cross-pollination.
- Incentives from the Curia Secretaries to the social justice center directors and university presidents can help facilitate collaboration.
- Keeping an ongoing journal of issues, crises, interventions, and outcomes on the engagements of social justice centers can be a valuable research asset and can jumpstart a research collaboration.
- Collaboration needs to move beyond goodwill. Human capital resources are needed to help faculty and social centers build, coordinate, and sustain engagements.
- Successful collaborations need to be through newsletters and accolades can be given for exciting and productive cross-apostolate collaborative work.
Better structural organization and synergy are needed between the two apostolates and must be grounded on a common understanding and mission. This is already happening in several contexts such as the partnership between Centre Arrupe Madagascar, a social action center, and the University of Antananarivo that led to a scientific journal becoming a tool for advocacy actions.
Similarly, the Journal of Management for Global Sustainability, an internationally peer-reviewed open access scholarly journal on management and global sustainability published semi-annually by the International Association of Jesuit Business Schools (IAJBS) and managed by the John Gokongwei School of Management of the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines invites social justice centers to contribute submissions.
In South Asia, social and education apostolates collaborated in speaking out against Fr. Stan Swamy’s imprisonment and death.
These “success stories” need to be further uplifted as these reinforce how scientific research becomes more effective through engagements with civil society. This then strengthens the local basis for evidence-based advocacy in global discussions and bring the local voices to the global for a broader response.