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

Nurturing community cohesion through digital social innovation!

People need places to connect with one another, find others with similar interests, share knowledge and skills, and reflect on their experiences as individuals in a society. These places and platforms for connection and networking are essential for developing community cohesion.

The Social Innovation Hub at Rhodes University is just that place. 

Communities that are cohesive and well-connected offer individuals a support system that can help to foster a sense of safety, trust, and mutual understanding. When people feel connected to their community, they are more likely to be engaged and involved in activities which contribute to a sense of purpose and fulfilment. This cohesion can help to facilitate the sharing of resources, knowledge, and skills, enabling individuals to benefit from the collective strengths and assets of their community. This can be particularly important for individuals or groups who may face significant social, economic, or political challenges. Community cohesion can also help to promote social capital - the collective resources, networks, and relationships that exist within a community. 


The Rationale for the Social Innovation Hub
  • Cohesive communities can achieve shared goals
  • The entrepreneurial and innovation capacity of communities in Makana can be maximised by encouraging collaboration between groups and individuals
  • The digital divide in Makana (access to training and technologies) limits the capacity for groups to access life opportunities, such as developing innovativeness, entrepreneurial skills and networking online
  • Social innovators in various fields or industries in Makan have limited opportunities for psychosocial support
  • Few physical and virtual spaces exist in Makana for social innovators to connect and share resources


Invoking Digital Social Innovation in Makana

The SI Hub as a digital social innovation recognises the transformative potential of technology in improving innovativeness and entrepreneurial capacity to address social challenges. By leveraging digital tools and platforms, the programme facilitates communication, knowledge-sharing, and collaboration among community members, and promotes the development of innovative solutions to local problems. Focussing on digital access ensures that all community members can participate in the process of social innovation, regardless of their background or resources. By combining digital innovation and social innovation, the programme aims to create a more connected, inclusive, and empowered community that is better equipped to address the complex challenges of the 21st century.


More information about the Social Innovation Hub

Cultivating Social Innovation - a step towards cohesive communities

The Social Innovation Hub is facilitating social innovation capacity to achieve community cohesion because social innovation has the potential to create meaningful and lasting change at the community level. Social innovation practices promote collaboration, creativity, and experimentation, which can help to address complex social challenges and promote a sense of shared responsibility and collective action among community members. Moreover, social innovation can help to build social capital and promote social inclusion, contributing to the development of more resilient and sustainable communities. By developing social innovation as a key strategy for community cohesion, the Hub is investing in the long-term well-being of the community and empowering its members to take an active role in shaping their own future.

Read more about our Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship activities here.


Capturing innovativeness, decolonizing knowledge and developing media literacy using Digital Storytelling

The SIH uses digital storytelling to nurture community cohesion, capture social innovations, and develop media literacy because it recognizes the power of storytelling in building empathy, connecting community members, and promoting social change. By using digital storytelling to capture and share stories of community members, the programme can promote a sense of shared identity and common purpose, and help to break down barriers of culture, age, and socio-economic status. Moreover, the programme's focus on media literacy ensures that community members have the skills and knowledge to critically engage with digital media, and to create and share their own stories responsibly and ethically. By promoting digital storytelling as a tool for community development, the programme aims to foster a more connected, informed, and engaged community that is better equipped to address the challenges and opportunities of the digital age.

Read more about digital storytelling activities here. 


City-wide access to technologies

The Social Innovation Hub aims to promote social innovation and social entrepreneurship through the provision of digital skills training and access to basic technological devices. The Hub provides RUCE affiliates access to laptops, tablets, cameras, microphones, and other equipment for personal development and social innovation projects that have a social impact. These resources are available to the public, including Rhodes staff and students, Makana residents, external organisations, and local schools. The library offers short-term loans of equipment, with partnerships with departments or organisations for extended periods. 

In addition to lending equipment, the Social Innovation Hub is available to assist and advise on the setup of computer labs in schools or community-based organisations and the implementation of digital training programmes. 

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. Mobile hubs are temporary or pop-up computer labs or digital centres that can be set up at a site in the city. These labs can be facilitated by the Hub or by an organisation requesting a lab. The Social Innovation Hub also has semi-fixed hubs which we set up in the city for medium-long term periods. 

Read more about accessing Mobile Hubs here

Read more about accessing the Digital Resource Centre here


Back to Basics: Computer Literacy

Recognising the digital divide in Makhanda, the Social Innovation Hub runs various computer skills courses, aiming to improve the overall computer literacy of the city. These basic skills are necessary for promoting technological and social innovation among our communities.  

Read more about Computer Literacy activities here.



History of the Social Innovation Hub: 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 others – 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: Wed, 19 Apr 2023 09:29:59 SAST