Rhodes>Community Engagement>Social Innovation>About the Social Innovation Hub

Building community cohesion with digital social innovation!

Social innovators, changemakers and community partners need a space to network, explore skills development opportunities, share experiences and access technologies in order to strengthen their community development projects and to stimulate cohesion between different communities and stakeholders. The Social Innovation Hub is that space, aiming to ensure city-wide access to technologies and tools to build cohesive and innovative communities.  

The Social Innovation Hub is Community Engagement's public digital resource center with the goal of bridging the digital divide and improving social cohesion in our community using innovative digital methods. The Social Innovation Hub runs training programmes covering a range of digital media and computer skills, and also facilitates access to basic technologies such as computers and tablets, to the Makana community at no cost. Ensuring city-wide access to digital equipment and internet is a priority for the Hub and this involves a mobile lab which can be set up temporarily at any location. The Social Innovation Hub uses these digital resources to provide support for social innovators in the form of practical tools, platforms and psychosocial healing. 

Partnerships is key to acheiving our goal so we have semi-fixed labs set up in Joza, in the Youth Hub and at the Assumption Development Center. 

The Social Innovation Hub is one of Rhodes University Community Engagement's community hubs, and is coordinated by tthe division and located in the RUCE building. 


Important information


The Common Good First Project

The Social Innovation Hub was born in 2019 from a collaboration between European institutions and South African universities. In 2016, a project led by Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland was given a grant from the European Union to create a network of people and groups trying to make a difference in their communities.

These social innovators were identified, initially, in South Africa and then across the world, to form a platform which would showcase their projects to each other, to universities and to potential sponsors and  funders. The initiative is called Common Good First and it has partners from twelve higher education institutions from Europe and South Africa. This group has delivered a website - commongoodfirst.com - which hosts a growing network of social impact projects using easy-to-complete profiles in the style of Facebook or LinkedIn sites. These are created by the social innovators themselves after a process of digital skills development and feature text, images and digital stories about their projects. In some instances, universities work with community partners to create digital stories, using this specially-developed module to help groups take part in digital story circles.

Our goal is that this project will facilitate an equal voice for all storytellers and encourage us to engage with each other’s narratives and initiatives. In this way, we can work together to create a more just and prosperous society. As an essential step in making this a reality, Rhodes University, one of five South African universities involved in the Common Good First project, launched its Social Innovation Hub through its Community Engagement Division. The Hub runs digital storytelling workshops to equip innovators with the skills required to engage meaningfully with the platform. By creating digital stories, innovators can undergo a process of healing and share their stories in a relatable way.

Common Good First was conceived as a digital network to identify, showcase and connect community-driven social impact projects to other – and to universities around the world for research, learning and teaching and student engagement. The initiative will also support community changemakers to develop e-skills and digital storytelling around the world – and the team also hopes the platform will attract potential funders, mentors and supporters for the projects whose stories it shares. 

Common Good First grew out of an idea from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) and was trialled as a proof of concept in 2016 in a partnership between GCU and the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. Following this pilot, a bid was submitted to the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union and a consortium of twelve partners in Europe and South Africa took Common Good First to the next level, building this website, launching digital labs across South Africa and developing e-skills and digital storytelling modules.

Find out more about the Common Good First project here. 


Contact information: 

Thandiwe Matyobeni - t.matyobeni@ru.ac.za or 046 603 7227


Last Modified: Thu, 20 Oct 2022 10:48:24 SAST