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21 May 2019 | Story Igno van Niekerk | Photo Stephen Collett
Digital storytelling
Collaborating for the common good are from left: Willem Ellis, Karen Venter, Dr Deidre van Rooyen, Prof Hendri Kroukamp, Bishop Billyboy Ramahlele, and Dr Johan van Zyl.

Prof Hendri Kroukamp, Dean of the Faculty of Management Sciences quoted the Cat Stevens song I can’t keep it in, to capture the excitement surrounding the opening of a Digital Storytelling Lab on the Bloemfontein Campus on 10 May 2019.

After months of hard work by Dr Deidre van Rooyen, Willem Ellis, Karen Venter, as well as the staff of the University of the Free State’s (UFS) Centre for Development Support, the Common Good First lab was completed just in time for the launch attended by about 50 delegates from other South African universities, as well as private and public institutions.

Stories meet technology

In a message, from Prof Puleng LenkaBula, Vice-Rector: Institutional Change, Student Affairs, and Community Engagement, informed the audience that the launch heralded the joining of the old world of stories with the new world of digital technology. Julie Adair, Director of Digital Collaboration at Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland, welcomed the UFS as a partner to this international social innovation collaborative project in a video message. 

Dr Van Rooyen, the project manager for the UFS, explained how she got involved in the Common Good First project, what the benefits of digital storytelling are, as well as what opportunities the lab creates for cooperation between role players involved in social innovation projects. 

Why the Common Good First lab?

The purpose of the lab is to create a digital network to identify, showcase and connect social innovation projects in South Africa to one another and to universities around the world for research, student engagement and learning and teaching. The lab has been fitted with state-of-the-art equipment for recording and digitising the stories that result from social innovation projects.

In a live Skype session with Dr Il-Haam Petersen, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), and some of the recent successes of the digital stories in Philippi in the Western Cape were shared.

Bishop Billyboy Ramahlele, UFS Director Community Engagement did the final honours by cutting the ribbon, declaring the lab open, and sharing the dream that the work done in this lab will contribute to positive relationships and cooperation between the university and the community, in making not only the university, but the country and the world a better place.


News Archive

SA cannot sustain momentum - Boesak
2010-09-02

Photo: Stephen Collett

South Africa finds it increasingly difficult to live up to the challenges facing it as a nation because of its failure to meet its democratic ideals and possibilities, peace and lack of self-belief.

This was according to renowned cleric and former political activist, Dr Allan Boesak, who recently delivered the CR Swart Memorial Lecture, the oldest memorial lecture at the University of the Free State (UFS). His lecture was on the topic Creating moments, sustaining momentum.

He said South Africa had plenty of opportunities to show the whole world what was possible if all the people of this country joined hands and worked together to build a truly united society. However, he said, the country somehow invariably contrived to find its way out of these wonderful possibilities.

He cited events of historical significance like Codesa, the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as the first democratic president of South Africa, the assassination of South African Communist Party leader, Chris Hani; and the rugby and soccer world cups.
To drive his point home about this dismal failure of the country to “sustain momentum”, he alluded to the current public servants’ strike that is gradually crippling public service.

“The public servants’ strike was neither unexpected nor is it completely unjustifiable. Most of us have understanding for the frustration of teachers and health workers. Their demands resonate with most of us, and I think that it is scandalous of SACP fat cats to tell workers to “stop crying like babies,” he said.

He also added to the criticism of the much-maligned decision of the government to spend billions of taxpayers’ money to purchase weapons when there was “no discernible military threat” to the country. He said the greatest threat to the security of the country was poverty, inequality and social cohesion.

“As for the argument that arms sales bring in foreign exchange – how can we be instrumental in killing the poor elsewhere with the intention of feeding our poor, and then our ill-gained profits feed only the already well-fed?” he asked.
“Can we see the hopeless contradiction, the total impossibility of being both the apostle of peace and a merchant of death?”

He also lambasted the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policy of the government which he said benefited only those connected to the political aristocracy.

“It couples with the unashamed, in-your-face display of wealth by the privileged elite in this country, the crass materialism of the so-called “bling generation”, and the casual carelessness with which promises to the poor are given and treated. It is only the public symptom of the deep-seated scorn our political elites feel for the poor,” he said.

He said the government’s disdain to the poor was “setting fire to our future”.

“The anger of people on the ground can no longer be denied or ignored, and little by little, the leadership articulating and directing this anger is being estranged from politically elected leadership, and even more disturbing, from our democratic processes,” he said.

He concluded that the country’s difficulty in dealing with race and racism was putting the reconciliation process kick-started by Mandela just over a decade ago, under a threat.
 

 

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