“What universities have not yet done is create institutions that aim, across a broad range of specific topics, to connect academic work and the broad capacities of the academic community with organizations and parties beyond the academy that possess the power and influence to transform all this into concrete consequences benefiting humanity. This is the purpose of Columbia World Projects.”
Columbia World Projects is a new initiative at Columbia University that aims to systematically bring university research out into the world in the form of projects that will have a significant and lasting positive impact on people’s lives and will help guide the way to solutions to intractable problems, while also enriching research and scholarship.
Major research universities like Columbia are home to a breadth and depth of expertise that no other institution can match. However, with scholarship often organized along disciplinary lines, connections between fields and practical applications of research to challenges in the world beyond the university, can be missed. Columbia World Projects aims to make productive connections between the work of schools and departments — both within the university and between the university and potential partners in government, foundations, business, and civil society — to generate new, collaborative multi-year projects. Through careful research and planning, we aim to identify areas where we can make a concrete, measurable impact within three to five years.
Columbia World Projects has an intellectual mission that goes along with the projects we generate, select and implement. We consider large, pressing questions, such as the future of democracy, as a way of identifying areas where we should create projects. And then, while operating projects based on university research, we aim to study and teach the process by which knowledge translates — or does not translate — into socially useful action. To this end, we are training an annual cohort of Obama Foundation Scholars, who are rising leaders from all over the world, and engaging Columbia students from across the University in our projects and intellectual work. Additionally, we regularly convene leading researchers and practitioners to consider the relationship between expertise and action, and to think about which specific areas could most benefit from these connections. We also aim to be a leader in building the nascent field of implementation.
Columbia World Projects is focused on a method of connecting universities with the rest of society, not on any one specific issue, and is committed to go beyond thinking and into doing through the projects it conceives and executes.