In line with the global requirement for higher education institutions (HEIs) to maximise their community engagement through partnerships and utilising the quadruple helix which includes government, industry, business and civil society, Stellenbosch University (SU) recently hosted its annual Social Impact Symposium. The symposium was entitled Reviewing 'Engaged' partnerships for Social Impact: Catalysing cross-sector partnerships for long-term social impact.
According to Ms Ernestine Meyer-Adams, Director of the Division for Social Impact, this was done as part of SU's commitment to drive alignment to the SU's Vision 2040 strategic goal of purposeful partnerships and inclusive networks.
In addition to a great number of senior SU staff, academics and students attending, the event was also well supported by several external professional organisations in the sector, i.e the South African Higher Education Community Engagement Forum (SAHECEF) which was represented by several HEIs such as University of the Western Cape (UWC), University of Venda (Univen), Rhodes University (RU), Central University of Technology (CUT), University of the Free State (UFS), Wits, Nelson Mandela University (NMU), to name but a few.
Meyer-Adams stated that the 2021 symposium allowed SU to analyse and celebrate the engaged collaborations that have managed to journey together ethically and authentically towards sustainability through mutually beneficial relationship building. The Social Impact (SI) partners of SU that were invited to present, were identified from partnership initiatives that are registered on the Social Impact Knowledge Platform.
The Faculties of Education, Military Science, Economic and Management Sciences, Law and Theology showcased their initiatives through dual presentations with their external partners. These initiatives demonstrated collaboration between different faculties without the need to cross any policy barriers, said Meyer-Adams.
Dr Leslie van Rooi, Senior Director: Social Impact and Transformation at SU, said the symposium was a platform for the University to review and rethink its strategy and way forward as an engaged university. “We must constantly and continuously reflect on society through teaching, learning and research, as well as partnerships to make a long-term and positive impact on society. The symposium allowed us to rethink, review and reimagine our social impact strategy," said Van Rooi.
Delivering the keynote address on the topic of Cross-sectoral engaged partnerships: Transformative Power of Higher Education to Deliver Effective Societal Impact, renowned academic in the sector Dr Cornel Hart explained how and why community engagement, partnerships and engaged scholarship became responsibilities of higher educational institutions.
With her extensive experience in research methodology and assessing community development, Hart noticed a new challenge for institutions, namely to measure and evaluate the extent of their impact on society and the footprint they have made.
As part of her presentation, she shared a SI typology that is a framework to plan SI projects in a professional and well-organised manner and, at the same time, measure and evaluate SI projects. She encouraged project planners to use the typology in designing so that the project will promote cross-sector partnerships across the entire institution while addressing the National Development Plan (NDP) and other regional and international development goals.
The highlight of the symposium was the dual presentations by SU academics and their external societal partners who shared in their joint social impact initiatives and the positive impact their initiatives had on communities.
“Building on this solid foundation, the future looks promising for changing the plight of communities through solid, ethical and sustainable university/community partnerships," Meyer-Adams commented.
The joint presentations included the following:
Faculty of Military Science and Stable Seas company – The Stable Seas Index: Exploring maritime security data sets to benefit fishing communities in the Western Cape
Faculty of Education and Paternoster NPC - Reflections on trust and mutual respect in the educational objectives in a Public Private Partnership
Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences and the Law Faculty with mutual partner Department of Correctional Services – Prison University Education through the Ubuntu Learning Community and Ex-Cell Workshop
Faculty of Theology with Ekklesia's ecumenical partnership: The key to significant social impact