Chapter 25: The new role of the university in community development
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Community implies the inclusion of diversity and the possibility of sharing within that context; furthermore, community is a synonym of interaction among different groups – therefore, voluntarily shared. This leads us to conceive community as unity in diversity (Tonon, 2009). The role of the individuals in the community scenarios and their direct participation is a particular concern in our times and, in this respect, we highlight the concept of empowerment by considering that it not only encompasses certain topics or material things, but also a changing process that leads to a specific type of result. In this chapter we reflect upon the role of university in community development, considering that the twenty-first century shows a new model of university committed to community life, with the needs of the citizens who form part of the community, and it further exercises a major role in the democratization of knowledge, based on the principle that knowledge is constructed socially and on the basis of respect for diversity in all human groups (Tonon, 2012, p. 517). The present role of universities, particularly in Latin America, has undergone a reconfiguration in the last decades, as a consequence of transformations in society and in the subjects that form part of it. The research work in UNICOM aims at making a contribution to the development of the new role of the universities of this era, by working on people’s empowerment, from the point of view of their potential assets rather than their liabilities – making allowances for the fact that there are difficulties to be surmounted, yet confident that the shared effort between university and community is possible, and may bring solutions to the problems of today.

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