Rhodes>Community Engagement>Engaged Research>Community Engagement Learning Symposium

Community Engagement Learning Symposium

Ruce logo long

Rhodes University Community Engagement
will be hosting the



The significance, relevance and impact of Higher Education Community Engagement for South Africa and the rest of Africa

(9 to 11 MAY 2023)

Join us for three days of discussions, talks, activities and workshops on COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT!


Community Engagement (CE) is not a novel concept for the African context. It is a change impetus in the higher education arena. Unfortunately, change is not readily welcomed or accepted in many organisations and institutions. CE is yet to be fully established by a number of universities in South Africa and other African countries. While some valid reasons exist for this slow pace such as the lack of funding and lack of a legal framework from a national level, we believe that much can be done to establish CE despite these and other existing challenges. By promoting the developmental and transformative roles of universities, CE serves as a platform to build community-university relationships for the mutual benefit of all those involved in CE, such as students, communities and academics. Many societal problems grow out of the belief and consequent practice that human and social phenomena can be perceived and addressed in an isolated and fragmented manner (particularly in South Africa where fragmentation, segregation and division remain a way of life).  Issues of the community are multi-faceted and, as such, needs to be addressed in a coordinated, multidimensional way through strong community-university partnerships, and CE has the potential to build these partnerships through the forms of Community based Service Learning (CBSL), Engaged Research (ER) and Engaged citizenry, among others.



The purpose of this symposium is to understand the significance of higher education community engagement and determine its relevance and impact for South Africa and the rest of Africa. Given that CE is relatively new in the higher education arena, is still emerging as a discipline and continues to challenge by some academics, the objective of the symposium is to generate knowledge, both theoretical and practical on CE, and highlight its significance for higher education and its reimagined purposes. 



Please find the CELS Symposium Programme here. 



Theme 1: Engaged Teaching through Community Based Service Learning

This theme focuses on a transformative pedagogy that links academic classroom learning to a service in the community through the formation of mutually beneficial community -university partnerships that address complex community needs and produce engaged and socially responsible graduates. 


  • Promoting education for life and for living through reciprocal community and university relationships
  • Transforming the relationship between universities and communities
  • Transforming individuals and communities through the service activities
  • Integrating social responsibility, transformation and critical citizenry into teaching and learning through praxis
  • Determining how universities  are using SDG17 to achieve the goals set in SDG 4


Theme 2: Engaged Research which includes CBPR

This theme focuses on research that is responsive to societal challenges using collaborative research approaches that includes CBPR.


  • Advancing knowledge democracy for epistemic justice
  • Promoting community university partnerships through shared goals, joint responsibilities, and a commitment to advancing community–led initiatives
  • Development of sustainable structures and processes including training that supports and advances community based participatory research 
  • Building of research capacity that advances the SGDs
  • Promoting research with societal impact through collective processes for social change that is locally relevant and globally engaged


Theme 3: Engaged Citizenry through student volunteerism and community-university partnerships 

This theme focuses on the importance of engaged citizenry opportunities in students’ university experiences.


  • Defining engaged citizenry and it place in higher education
  • The cultivating of humanity through engaged citizenry
  • Enabling and supportive mechanisms that advance engaged citizenry opportunities in higher education
  • Monitoring and evaluation of impact of engaged citizenry 
  • The role of community partners in students’ university experiences, learning and development


Theme 4: Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship

This theme focuses on the role of universities in contributing to economic development of communities by developing innovative strategies to holistically and collaboratively address social needs.


  • Promoting community-university partnerships to address socio economic challenges in communities 
  • Using innovative strategies to address challenges in the community
  • Determining how universities are cultivating a culture of entrepreneurship with a focus on social impact in the community
  • Determining how universities are contributing to meeting SDGs 8 & 9



All of the above themes and sub-themes should attempt to critically answer the following key questions of the symposium:

  1. What is the significance of CE for higher education?
  2. How can CE contribute to the reimagined purposes of higher education?
  3. What is the relevance of CE for higher education and the various participants of CE?
  4. What is the impact of CE with regards to community development and university transformation?
  5. What are the challenges for the establishment of CE and how can these challenges be addressed?



Rhodes University Community Engagement will also offer workshops in the afternoon on Monday 8 May. The workshops are included in the Symposium fees. The workshops will take place at Amazwi as well. 


Workshop 1:  Universities as Anchor Institutions: What role for Community Engagement?

13:00 to 14:00

Facilitated by RUCE Director Di Hornby and Dr Margie Maistry.

Anchor institutions (AIs) are described as place-based institutions that are at once fluid and dynamic and, at the same time, rooted in place. Currently, the role of place and the place-based institutions of cities and regions are being recast as one of the driving conditions of development and change in the 21st century. Examples of such place-based AIs are universities, hospitals, community foundations, local governments, and key infrastructure services. Universities as anchor institutions is currently an emerging concept in the South African higher education arena. Fongwa (2022) suggests that the anchoring of universities incorporates but necessitates more than what the core functions of universities-teaching and learning, research and community engagement-are required to do. In this workshop, we aim to conceptualise universities as AIs in the South African context and explore the role that community engagement plays or can play in anchoring universities in communities.

Workshop 2: Knowledge for Change - Engaged Research and Knowledge Democracy

14:00 to 15:00

Facilitated by Dr Rene Oosthuizen.

The workshop on engaged research and knowledge democracy seeks to promote a collaborative approach to research that involves active participation and collaboration between researchers, community members and stakeholders. The workshop aims to explore ways of conducting research that can contribute to positive social change by promoting research that is grounded in the needs and perspectives of the community and promotes greater equity, justice and democracy in society.
Workshop 3: Digital Storytelling

13:00 to 15:00

Facilitated by Thandiwe Matyobeni

Digital storytelling is a versatile method that can be adapted to suit various aspects of engaged scholarship, from engagement with university-community partners in teaching and learning and as a method for engaged research and research communication and social innovation. This workshop explores the possibilities of digital storytelling in higher education. 


Workshop 4: IARSLCE - Setting the global agenda for Community Engagement collectively

15:00 to 17:00

Facilitated by Nicole Webster

Professor Nicole Webster, who is the Chair of the International Association for Research on Service Learning and Community Engagement (IARSLCE), will facilitate this workshop. The primary purpose of IARSLCE is to cultivate, encourage, and present research across all engagement forms and educational levels. The Association promotes high quality transdisciplinary research across a wide range of approaches and forms and builds the capacity of scholars, practitioners, and community partners to engage in such research. This workshop focuses on the development of IARSLCE's Global Research Agenda for Community Engagement such that it reflects the diverse and evolving interests and perspectives of scholars, practitioners, collaborators, and supporters of community engagement from across the globe.


Workshop 5: Carnegie Classification of Community Engagement

17:30 to 19:30

Facilitated by Dr Marisol Morales and Dr Paul LeMahieu

The two facilitators for this workshop are Dr Marisol Morales, the Executive Director, Carnegie Classification of Community Engagement and Dr Paul LeMahieu, Senior Vice President of the Carnegie Foundation.


If you are interested in any of the workshops, please let us know in the registration form. If you have any questions about the workshops, please contact Dr Bertha Sibhensana at bertha.sibhensana@ru.ac.za



A group of enriched scholars and community practitioners have been invited as key note speakers at the CEL symposium.


Prof Tim Stanton

Senior Engaged Scholar, Ravensong Associates
Tim Stanton has founded and directed various programs related to community health, public service, and public policy at Stanford University. He has taught in several fields, including African Studies, American Studies, Education, Medicine, Public Policy, and Urban Studies. He has published articles and a book on service-learning and community engaged scholarship, and is a consultant in higher education both in the US and overseas.
Prof George Openjuru 
Vice Chancellor, Gulu University and Chair, Vice Chancellors Forum Uganda
Prof. George L Openjuru is currently Vice Chancellor and Professor of Education at Gulu University. He was formerly Deputy Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs at Gulu University and Dean of School of Distance and Lifelong Learning, College of Education and External Studies. He was also the Head of the Department of Community Education and Extra-Mural Studies, all at Makerere University. He was an Associate Professor of Adult and Community Education

Nicole Webster

Chair, International Association for Research on Service Learning and Community Engagement (IARSLCE)

IARSLCE is an international network of researchers and practitioners devoted to fostering dialogue on service-learning and community engagement.

Their objectives are to advance the fields of service-learning and community engagement research across the educational spectrum (primary, secondary, post-secondary, and further education).

Dr Marisol Morales

Executive Director, Carnegie Classification of Community Engagement

Marisol Morales is the Executive Director of the Carnegie Elective Classifications, providing conceptual leadership and operational oversight to the elective classifications’ work. This includes the collaborative development of and responsibility for all initiatives, oversight, and facilitation of relevant national and international advisory committees, conceptualising and implementing extensive data archives as well as developing and enacting a shared vision regarding access to and use of the knowledge produced by the Carnegie Elective Classifications to beneficially guide research, policy, and practice.


Dr Paul LeMahieu

Senior Vice President, Carnegie Foundation

Paul LeMahieu is the senior vice president of the Carnegie Foundation. Previously at Carnegie, he managed the Foundation's programmatic work and directed the work of the Carnegie Hub, which supports the networks the Foundation convenes to engage problems of education practice in the field.


Dr Samuel Fongwa

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

Dr Sam Fongwa is a Senior Research Specialist in the Inclusive Economic Development (IED) Division at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), based at the Pretoria Office. He joined the HSRC as a Post-doctoral research fellow in 2016. Dr Fongwa's research expertise is cross-disciplinary to include areas of Higher education studies and development studies. This transdisciplinary theme focuses on, inter alia, research linking universities to regional and spatial development, skills development, graduate outcomes.


Prof Peter Clayton

Former DVC Research and Innovation Rhodes University (retired Dec 2022)

Professor Clayton's association with Rhodes University goes back to 1976 when he enrolled as an undergraduate BSc student. He joined the University's staff some years later, in 1982, as a lecturer in Computer Science and has served the University for the past 40 years. His role as Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation spanned 15 years.

Prof Clayton's leadership of the research portfolio has contributed to Rhodes University's rise to becoming one of the most productive research-intensive universities in the sector.


Dr Jessica Cockburn

Senior Lecturer Department of Environmental Science, Rhodes University 

Jessica is a Lecturer in Environmental Science. She grew up a farm in a family passionate about conservation and social justice, and as such has always had an interest in understanding landscapes in an integrated way. She recently completed a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Environmental Learning Research Centre at Rhodes University, where she further developed the research in the nexus of Landscapes-Linkages-Learning which she started in her PhD. Being based in the Faculty of Education for two years allowed Jessica to deepen her work on the social aspects of social-ecological systems research.


  • Postgraduate students in Africa and Internationally
  • Independent Researchers
  • Community Based Organizations/Non-Governmental Organizations
  • Private Sectors/Industries
  • Academics of Higher Education Institutions nationally and globally




Face to face: 

R2,200.00 for University Staff and other attendants

R1,200.00 for Students and Partners 

* Fee includes a symposium pack, teas, lunches, refreshments and additional activities, including a Gala Dinner on Wednesday evening. 



R500.00 for University Staff and other attendants

R250.00 for Students and Community Partner Organisations 


If Rhodes staff, students and community partner organisations would like to apply for a reduced fee or full bursary, apply to Dr Bertha Sibhensana on bertha.sibhensana@ru.ac.za



Amazwi South African Museum of Literature, Makhanda, Eastern Cape, South Africa.



Airport buses are available from Port Elizabeth Airport (included in the symposium registration fee).  Please book the bus that best suits your arrival and departure times: 
Arrival from PE airport to Makhanda (1.5 hour drive from airport to Makhanda)
Monday 8 May 2023
Departure from Makhanda to PE airport (1.5 hour drive to airport from Makhanda):
Thursday 11 May 2023
Friday 12 May 2023
Should you require transport outside of the below times please contact shuttles at your own cost: 
Dabane Shuttle: 0723118855
Ron's Tours: 0828713419


Find placees to stay in Makhanda here: Accommodation in Makhanda



Research papers will be selected from the presentations for the first publication of the African Journal of Higher Education Community Engagement (AJHECE) in 2023. An African journal of community engagement provides a space for African perspectives on the contribution of community engagement in higher education. This new journal intends to make a significant contribution not only to embedding community engagement in university functions but also to growing an African canon on community engagement, and moving towards knowledge democracy.



Registration has now closed.



Language: The symposium will be conducted in English. Presentations in all languages are accepted, however, translation is the responsibility of the presenter
Abstract format: Title, name of contributors, presentation format (PowerPoint, poster, workshop, etc.), Maximum of 300 words abstract
Abstract Deadline: 4 April 2023


Presentation Formats: 

  • Research Papers
  • Posters
  • Storytelling

Any other format not listed above will be considered. Please explain this in your abstract.



Abstract Submission Deadline: 4 April 2023
Notification of acceptance: 11 April 2023
Final Programme: 17 April 2023
Final date for registration and payment: 28 April 2023

Last Modified: Mon, 08 May 2023 07:58:24 SAST