The Matie Community Service, better known as Maties Gemeenskapdiens (MGD), has finally integrated with Stellenbosch University's (SU) Division of Social Impact (DSI) after an intensive consultation process that stretched over two years.
The integration was concluded with a majority vote favouring the 58-year-old non-governmental organisation (NGO) to become part of SU. The voting took place at the annual general meeting (AGM) on 20 October in the presence of about 70 people, comprising members of MGD, SU staff, and students.
It marked the end of an intensive consultation and investigation process over two years into the feasibility of integrating MGD with SU and losing its NGO status.
In support of the incorporation, Prof Nico Koopman, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Social Impact, Transformation and Personnel, expressed his confidence that the integration was the best decision after the correct processes were followed.
“Various role players have been consulted in an intensive process and it was not a sudden decision. There has been wide consultation internally, and with external role players. I'm satisfied that the process went along in a varied, inclusive, consultative, and responsible way," Koopman said.
He emphasised that MGD's focus on engaged citizenship has, for all these years, been “one of the cornerstones of the social impact mandate of the University. MGD is an indispensable part of SU's social impact imperative".
Chair of the MGD Board, Prof Ronelle Carolissen, agreed that MGD has always had a strong footprint in communities. “I believe the legacy of MGD will go from strength to strength and while the past two years have forced hard lessons upon us all, the role of MGD in initiating and supporting interventions and student learning for social impact is undeniable," she said.
The consultation process into the future of MGD started in 2020 when Rudy Oosterwyk was appointed to investigate its strategic position and sustainability. He facilitated stakeholder discussions and found that MGD's mission aligns with SU's strategic values and mission. In July 2021, Dr Jerome Slamat, former Executive Manager in the Rector's Office, was appointed to facilitate the integration of MGD into the DSI.
Student engagement and learning are central
In a panel discussion at the AGM, several students reflected on their experiences with MGD. Renee Hector-Kannemeyer, MGD's Head and Deputy-Director at DSI, moderated the panel discussion highlighting MGD's mission in student and community engagement and learning.
Stefani Terblanche and Stanley Msiska, students who recently attended Unite 2030's Camp 2030 in New York, thanked MGD for its dedication towards student learning. Terblanche and Msiska are grateful for MGD, who facilitated their attendance at this international youth event, allowing them to learn, innovate, and help solve global social challenges.
The former Social Impact leader in the Students' Representative Council, Precious Nhamo, said MGD always supported her with social impact activities. As the current primaria of Huis Ten Bosch, Nhamo appealed that student engagement, mentorship, and financial support remain central to MGD, especially after the integration.
Bradley Bloomfield, who completed the 2022 Advancing Engaged Citizenship e-tutor short course offered by MGD, stated that this engaging course opened up many opportunities for further growth and becoming a global citizen.
Reacting to the students' sentiments, Koopman assured them that MGD's critical student engagement would be prioritised, sustained, and continued in the newly reimagined DSI.
The road ahead
Before the integration, Hector-Kannemeyer and Michelle Pietersen, senior programme manager at MGD, met with student leaders and community partners to discuss how the integration would impact their relationship and engagement.
“MGD's historical vision is to expand the University's footprint in surrounding communities through student volunteerism. This work remains a critical element of SU's institutional plan through its Social Impact Strategy. MGD's staff have fulfilled this mandate for almost six decades. The University relies on MGD to ensure the implementation of this programme and to provide support to academic departments involved directly in community engagement. MGD also assists students to develop appropriate and targeted responses based on the needs of the community," explained Hector-Kannemeyer.
“The integration model provides an opportunity for the reallocation of funds in reaching the goals set out in SU's Social Impact Strategy. Engaged citizenship will become one of the core focus points of the reimagined DSI, which will ensure the sustainability of MGD's work," Hector-Kannemeyer added.
Integrating MGD with the DSI will prevent operational ambiguity and misalignment with SU's strategic institutional plan. “There is therefore no strategic value or operational rationale in retaining an NGO that essentially does the work of the University as articulated in its strategic plan and outlined in the MGD constitution," Hector-Kannemeyer explained.
The integration is an exciting development for Koopman, showing that MGD has grown over the last five decades. “Stakeholders will now be a part of the broader DSI and its partnerships, which is a crucial part of our work. So, when MGD is integrated into the DSI, the partnerships we cherish must be strengthened," Koopman said.
Dr Leslie van Rooi, Senior Director of Social Impact and Transformation, agreed: “The integration will enable the University to continue building on the historical work of MGD. The Division of Social Impact is ready to refresh itself through the integration of MGD. This will bring new energy and possibilities not only to the mentioned office, but indeed also to our University as a whole."
Photographer: Henk Oets