Social impact

Universities and communities

University-community connections strengthen our campuses, exposing students and researchers to diverse perspectives, experiences and expertise. They also help communities build resiliency, and harness new opportunities and research resources to address rapid technological and economic disruption. These collaborations are driving innovation and creating a more inclusive and prosperous Canada for all.

Universities are anchors for their communities and they are highly involved in fostering social development. Often a local major employer, universities support their communities by buying local products and investing in local services. They provide the community with much needed library, arts and physical education facilities.

Strengthening university impact in the community

Universities Canada has partnered with the McConnell Foundation to lead a three-year pan-Canadian initiative to better map, strengthen and promote the social impact of Canadian universities in their local communities.

What universities are doing

Advisory Group

The social impact initiative advisory group, composed of experts in community engagement, philanthropy, university-community partnership and social innovation, provides strategic advice to Universities Canada and supports the work relating to initiative.

Cathy Barr
Vice-president, policy, research and standards
Imagine Canada

Jean-Paul Boudreau
Mount Allison University

Joann Curry
Vice-president, external relations
Simon Fraser University

Andrea Dicks
Community Foundations Canada

Jade Marcil
Quebec Student Union

Chad Lubelsky
Program Director
McConnell Foundation

Charmaine Lyn
Director, Changemaker Education
Ashoka Canada

Jacqueline Ottmann
Vice-provost, Indigenous engagement
University of Saskatchewan

Marcel Simoneau
Director, community services

David Sylvester
President and vice-chancellor
University of St. Michael’s College


There is a broad network of actors working toward an increased university/community connection across the country. Finding solutions to today’s world problems requires multidisciplinary approaches, collaboration across sectors, and knowledge sharing from a variety of perspectives and background. Fostering, supporting and increasing partnerships between universities and actors in their local communities is key.

Here are some Canadian initiatives working towards that goal.


Sandra Boisvert
Social Impact Lead

This initiative is supported by:

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Universities Canada