New forum up and running to engage communities

The placement of students in community service positions is a top priority for the North-West University’s (NWU’s) newly launched Community Engagement Stakeholders Forum.

“We are very excited about the new forum. The goal is to form reciprocal relationships with our communities and develop a database of stakeholders aligned with the NWU, especially for the purpose of placing students in community service positions,” says Bibi Bouwman, director for sustainability and community impact.

The forum is also part of the process of being more inclusive and supporting the strategy of engaged teaching and learning through service-learning and the use of “Science Shops”. These offer citizen groups free or very low-cost access to scientific and technological know-how.

Three inception meetings were held to consult with local stakeholders associated with each NWU campus. They took place on 19, 20 and 21 July, respectively, at the Vanderbijlpark, Potchefstroom and Mahikeng campuses.

The meetings were publicised through a press release, which was sent to all local news outlets and placed on the NWU's website and internal daily communication media.

There was no restriction on who could participate in the forum, regardless of whether they were already part of a faculty-run project. In fact, faculty and student outreach projects are encouraged to include their community partners in this forum.

“This is a golden opportunity for our partners to learn about the university's workings and objectives, and the boundaries of our collaboration,” says Bibi. “Together, we aim to identify vital partnerships and secure funding to ensure our community engagement initiatives flourish and make our partnerships more sustainable.”

Attendance at the initial meetings was modest, although the diversity of the groups made up for the numbers. In future, local radio stations will be used to reach larger numbers of community members and the NWU will also explore the option of holding virtual and face-to-face meetings. 

“We are looking forward to a strong partnership with our communities, and we are grateful for any support, be it in the form of donations, resources or networks to address the challenges our communities face,” Bibi says.

“Science shops offer citizens groups (community) free or very low-cost access to scientific and technological knowledge and research, to help them achieve social and environmental improvement. They are run by scientific coordinators acting as intermediaries between a citizens’ group that poses questions and university researchers, teachers or students who conduct research in response. At the NWU we are also empowering our communities to understand and implement research with assistance from the university in addressing relevant needs.”

Community partners attend the Vanderbijlpark Campus inception meeting.

Partners at the meeting in Potchefstroom.

Community partners and members of the Sustainability and Community Impact team attend the forum meeting in Mahikeng.

Submitted on Thu, 09/28/2023 - 11:56