Community Engagement Learning Symposium

09 May 2023 -11 May 2023 @ 08:30 - 16:30


May 9, 2023
08:30 AM - 04:30 PM
AMAZWI South African Museum of Literature, Makhanda, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Event Type:


Rhodes University Community Engagement
046 603 7667

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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. 



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 responsiblen 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. 


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

More information about this workshop to follow soon. 


Workshop 2: Engaged Research and Knowledge Democracy
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

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 engagd research and research communication and social innovation. This workshop explores the possibilities of digital storytelling in higehr education. 


Workshop 4: Setting the global agenda for Community Engagement collectively

Coordinated by IARSLCE. More information about this workshop to follow soon. 


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



  • 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



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.

Submit abstracts here.



Register to attend the symposium here. 


Abstract Submission Deadline: 4 April 2023
Notification of acceptance: 6 April 2023
Final Programme: 10 April 2023
Final date for registration and payment: 15 April 2023


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



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



The full programme will be confirmed by 10 April 2023. 



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.

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