2023 Reach Conference in Monterrey, Mexico

This month we held our annual Reach conference for the first time outside Canada at Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico. As Tecnológico de Monterrey celebrates its 80th anniversary, Juan Pablo Murra, Rector for Higher Education defined the University’s mission looking forward focusing on leadership, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

“Our commitment to research and social impact is a testament to our belief that knowledge when harnessed and applied wisely has the power to bridge gaps, and barriers and create opportunities for all.”

Reach’s researchers and mentors from all eight partner institutions joined prominent thinkers and practitioners from various sectors to share their knowledge and actionable insights. To explore inequality, both its social and economic aspects, we spent three days advancing our collective understanding of this vital issue from an international perspective. Over 100 participants were there — passionate community leaders in sustainable development who aimed to inspire action toward accelerating the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Check out our photo gallery for a sense of the conference’s energy.

Conference Highlights

Over the last seven years, the Reach Alliance has grown to into a network of eight universities including the University of Toronto, Tecnológico de Monterrey, University College London, the University of Oxford, Ashesi University, University of Cape Town, Singapore Management University, and the University of Melbourne. Joseph Wong, the Reach Alliance’s founder and University of Toronto Vice President, International, reflected on the history and growth of the alliance throughout the years and this milestone of hosting the first international conference in Monterrey.

Photo: Day 1 of the 2023 Reach Conference at Tecnológico de Monterrey

“When we organized the first Reach conference, we wanted to showcase the students and to be sure their research was front and center. What we have now is an extraordinary global network.”

The conference opened with keynote remarks from Graeme C. Clarke, Canada’s ambassador to Mexico, who set the tone for the discussions: “Whether its peace & security, climate change, or our attempts to improve human rights in our separate societies we have a lot of work to do. You need to do better than we have on these issues, that’s my challenge to you. By connecting, working together, thinking together and exchanging I’m feeling more hopeful about the state of our climate.”

Photo: Canada’s Ambassador to Mexico Graeme C. Clarke

Speakers and panelists shared their experiences from the field. We heard perspectives from Reach’s Academic Consortium, FEMSA Foundation, National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONEVAL), Kolab Venture Studio, Kindred, and the World Bank.

Because this year’s conference focused on reducing disparities when reaching the last mile, it showcased the value of a multidisciplinary approach when addressing global issues and creating innovative solutions. Cross-institutional panels allowed researchers from all eight global university partners to share insights and best practices while considering how to bridge the gap between research findings and policy implementation. Read their newly published reports and learn about upcoming research.

As Lizeli Olivier, a Reach researcher from the University of Cape Town, prepares to conduct fieldwork with her team, she said the conference honed her sense of different sectors working together. “Researchers need support from entrepreneurs to transform their findings into innovative products and business models, allowing for the scalable implementation of their ideas. Embracing collaboration and support is crucial.”

More than 16 different panels and sessions explored how to reduce inequalities, build inclusive healthcare, and foster community partnerships; entrepreneurship’s social impact; supporting childhood development through play and education; and supporting climate change resilience. See the full agenda here.

Francesca Lanzarotti, a Reach researcher from University College London, told us “Attending helped me reflect on the importance of having a holistic and multidisciplinary approach to addressing global issues and creating innovative solutions. This has reignited my interest in using our research in an applied manner to make substantial and sustainable change. It was also incredibly motivating to hear about all the visionary research being conducted worldwide by our generation.”

Photo: Andrew Koh, Jochebed Basil, Lizeli Olivier and Dexter Tan (left to right)

In discussions about addressing inequities, we also heard about:

As the conference drew to a close, we had the privilege of hearing from Arturo Franco, the senior advisor in development policy at the World Bank, who wrapped up by leaving us inspired and empowered for the journey ahead “There’s two focus areas at the World Bank right now, women and youth. We cannot ignore the stark reality that women’s labor participation hasn’t improved significantly since the 1990s. You in the room represent the biggest part of the human population and we need to create the quality education and healthcare opportunities to realize your potential.”

Skills Development

Photo: Reach Researchers from the University of Toronto, Tecnológico de Monterrey, University College London, the University of Oxford, Ashesi University, University of Cape Town, Singapore Management University, and the University of Melbourne

Our global researchers also participated in skills development workshops led by Reach Alliance’s lead coaching consultant Jason Sealy and alumna Anowa Quarcoo. The interactive sessions began by asking researchers to reflect on their leadership philosophy. Having your own leadership philosophy is important when you’re on course. But when you’re challenged, and things don’t go right, your philosophy keeps you on track and connected with the person that you know yourself to be. Learn more about the relationship between coaching, leadership development, and social impact that is embedded within the Reach Alliance program.

A Welcome Gift

Photo: Handcrafted pin created made by Cooperativa Artisanal “Del Copal Al Arte” for Conference attendees

Upon arrival, each conference attendee received a pin handcrafted by Cooperativa Artisanal “Del Copal Al Arte,” based in La Esperanza Community in Juárez, Nuevo León, and from Oaxaca. The members of this community work to transform their challenges into art that keeps their beautiful Mixtec culture alive. We are grateful for their meaningful contribution.

Special thanks to our incredible hosts at Tecnológico de Monterrey. We’re looking forward to welcoming you all to the 2024 Reach Conference and we are excited to continue to connect, learn from one another, and facilitate meaningful impact.