The Department of Economics at Stellenbosch University, celebrating its 100+ (101) year anniversary, recently hosted the first Social Impact Expo, an initiative brought about by Prof Rachel Jafta, a member of this department.
Social impact is the effect on people and communities that happens as a result of an action (or inaction), an activity, project, programme or policy. “The purpose of the SI Expo, a first in South Africa, is to showcase and inspire, hoping that the selection of initiatives will demonstrate how positive engagement - large or small - can have a ripple effect for the better" says Jafta. “We hope to encourage other organisations and individuals to make sustainable differences in their direct environment" she added.
The visual exhibition highlighted the social impact of three of the department's research projects, namely the Biography of an Uncharted People Project, the Mansory phone application and a school traffic awareness research project. It also included examples of social impact initiatives that were based on initial research input, such as Rachel's Angels Mentorship Programme and WeCode24.
Over the last four years, the Biography of an Uncharted People Project has transcribed large, administrative historical records to tell new histories of people often excluded from conventional sources. Instead of simply publishing this research in academic journals – far removed from those whose stories are told – this project aims to imagine a new form of research dissemination, through art. Fourteen artists were paired with 14 students to translate the research results of the students into works of art. These works of art were displayed at the Social Impact Expo, and will be displayed again at SU's Gallery (GUS) next year.
The Mansory phone application was developed to assist the Rooidakke housing project just outside Grabouw. The app analyses the quality, quantity of effort and effectiveness in the building process of RDP houses. Currently the app looks at assisting the Department of Housing, builders, and inspectors, with a further rollout to suppliers and similar stakeholders in the future.
The Traffic Awareness Research Project, the first of its kind in South Africa, assesses the effectiveness of road safety education interventions in low-income schools in the Western Cape. Though this is a small project, it is seen as an important first step in understanding the challenges of providing suitable and effective road safety education to learners in economically deprived neighbourhoods.
The Rachel's Angels Mentorship Programme, a Media24 initiative in association with the University of Stellenbosch, ran for ten years. The exhibition showcased videos of mentors and mentees, and shared information of what happened to the participants after the programme ended.
WeCode24 replaced Rachel's Angels in 2017. WeCode24 is an after-school coding programme designed to inspire a culture of curiosity, creativity and agency among South African youth. Through their online platform and in-person workshops and events, they provide learners with a fun and accessible means to discover the joy of coding with a hacker mind-set.
- Those interested in viewing the Expo, can contact Mirri at email@example.com.
- Photo supplied: From left to right are Professors Andri Schoombee, Chair of the Department of Economics, Ingrid Woolard, Dean: Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Wim de Viliers, Vice-Chancellor and rector of Stellenbosch University, Rachel Jafta, Professor of Economics and Naspers director, Nico Koopman, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Social Impact, Transformation and Personnel, and Stan du Plessis: SU's Chief Operating Officer.