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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

Learning to serve, serving to learn
2013-10-18

 
At the Community Engagement Open Day were, at the back, from the left: Dr Choice Makhetha, Vice-Rector: External Relations; and Rev Billyboy Ramahlele, Director of Community Engagement. In front are, from the left: Selby Lengoabala, Betlehem Unit Manager; Councillor Job Tshabalala, Acting Executive Mayor; and Councillor Isaac Tshabalala, Strategic Manager in the office of the Executive Mayor of the  Dihlabeng Local Municipality.
18 October 2013

Local community members, students and staff gathered at the Bloemfontein Campus, displaying what they do to empower communities. 

The university held its first Community Engagement Open Day in order to honour outstanding individuals and highlight programmes that advance its civil responsibility. Hosted by the UFS Community Engagement Directorate, local community members, students and staff gathered in the Callie Human Centre at the Bloemfontein Campus, displaying what they do to empower communities. 

Partners in Community Engagement (CE) and Service Learning (SL), local government, community-based research, student volunteer groups, Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs) and private business interacted with guests at their various information stalls. Faculties and departments displayed their distinctive programmes and demonstrated a renewed commitment to change lives through sharing knowledge, rendering services and fostering empowerment among communities.

In recognition of outstanding service, commitment and excellence in the field of community engagement and service learning, some staff members, researchers and some partners received the Vice-Rector’s Award for Community Engagement. Among them was Prof Matie Hoffman, who was honoured for his longstanding involvement in research at the Boyden Observatory. He is currently at the forefront of renovations for the planetarium at Naval Hill. In the category for external partners, REACH and Heidedal Childcare were awarded for demonstrating commitment towards their partnership with the university. The acting Executive Mayor, Job Tshabalala, also received an award on behalf of Dihlabeng Local Municipality Mayor, Tjhetane Mofokeng, for their involvement in education and social cohesion programmes. During his keynote address, the Director of Community Engagement, Rev Billyboy Ramahlele, emphasised the contribution that community engagement has on the two major strategic programmes of the university, namely the Academic and Human Projects. He pointed out that CE creates a platform on which students learn to appreciate human diversity in a real and unprotected set-up.

The interactions of the Open Day are expected to raise awareness, cultivate understanding among partners, encourage solid alliances and bring to the fore an acknowledgement of community engagement as the integral part of higher education.

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