By Dana de Guzman

The research team from the University of Malaya has been doing the rounds this year, interviewing directors and executives from regional networks such as the ASEAN University Network (AUN), Asia Engage, SEAMEO Regional Center for Higher Education and Development (SEAMEO-RIHED), SEAMEO Regional Center for Educational Innovation and Technology (SEAMEO-INNOTECH), Southeast Asia Association for Institutional Research (SEAAIR), and the Asian Heads of Research Councils (ASIAHORCS) to find out how these organizations can help promote innovation and inclusive development. 

These interviews were conducted as part of the UNIID-SEA-supported research project entitled “Regional Coordination Mechanism for Universities and Councils in Inclusive Development: The Case of Southeast Asia Innovation Systems”.

Related article: Good regional coordination mechanism needed in SEA

Potential for collaboration amidst diversity 

Based on the interviews, it is apparent that regional networks celebrate the diversity within the region, while promoting cooperation and collaboration among their institutional members. The different countries have distinct cultures, historical roots, and political structures, but face similar social issues such as the climate change threats and challenges to more inclusive growth, which opens opportunities for the sharing of experiences, lessons, and starting collective action-responses among countries, social institutions such as universities and councils, and various sectors/ industries.

Promoting inclusiveness, social responsibility, and innovation
Among the regional networks who were targeted by the study, three networks have concrete programs that are oriented towards promoting inclusiveness and innovation. The ASEAN University Network (AUN) has a thematic network on University Social Responsibility and Sustainability (USR&S), which encourages universities to undertake community-based researches: initiatives are driven by the community, with the universities providing guidance and facilitation. SEAMEO-RIHED is also promoting university social responsibility, sustainable development, and the development of curricula that target common issues across the region.

Asia Engage, on the other hand, which builds community-industry partnerships on Research, Education and Volunteerism, have existing programs that focus on key development themes: Rural Development and Poverty Eradication, Social Entrepreneurship, Youth-friendly Health Services, Education Development, Environment, Protecting ASEAN’s Heritage, and Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery.

However, the harmonization of efforts in order to achieve greater scale and have region-wide impact has yet to be seen, and consensus on the adoption of more inclusive innovation and development paradigms and approaches across countries has yet to be discussed and reached.

The results of the research will be released before the end of 2013. It is hoped that the research will yield not only an objective assessment but also key recommendations on how these networks can become better equipped to promote IID in the region.


Initial Report on “Regional Coordination Mechanism for Universities and Councils in Inclusive Development: The Case of Southeast Asia Innovation Systems” by The University of Malaya Consultancy Unit.

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