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About | Community Engagement

Defining “community”

Generally speaking, “community” signifies a social grouping of society involved in an interaction at any given moment and refers to groups of people united by a common location, or to groups of people who are linked intellectually, professionally and/or politically.

Reverting to the broad definition of “community” provided above, keep in mind that modern society knows no boundaries (i.e. “common location”). Therefore, the assumption can not be that the North-West University's communities are limited to Gauteng and the North West Province or, for that matter, South Africa alone: Fact is, nowadays, that community spans the world.

Nevertheless, broadly speaking, North-West University serves two communities:

  1. An internal community comprised of staff, students and the like; and
  2. An external community comprised, amongst others, of its partners in the private and public sector.

Likewise, given that social groupings are often representative of both communities of interest and communities of practice, North-West University is of the opinion that to focus on the marginalised in a particular community does not necessarily imply that the needs, wants and activities of other formations within the same social grouping are precluded.

In fact, gaining insight into the ideas and thoughts of those who share a common interest is often vitally important to those who wish to practice a particular profession – and vice-versa.

And this is precisely where North-West University steps in to not only act as a conduit of knowledge but also as a facilitator of meaningful engagement between academia and the community at large.


Defining “engagement”

On a formal level, institutions of higher learning have always played a crucial role in conducting research, sharing findings, developing innovative solutions and patenting products in addition to offering teaching-learning activities that satisfy the demands of an ever-changing labour market. This sharing of expertise is applicable to all university communities – both external and internal – and can take the form of engaged teaching-learning (including work-integrated learning and service learning) or engaged research.


Defining “community engagement”

Sometimes referred to as engaged scholarship, community engagement involves facilitating cooperation between North-West University and its communities in such a way that both parties can actively discover knowledge and teach and learn from one another in a reciprocal, mutually beneficial manner.

Community engagement (CE) can either be discipline based or non-discipline based and can take many forms. However, to distinguish CE from any other activity that purely relates to teaching, learning and research, the following criteria are applied to determine whether an activity can be regarded as true community engagement as defined by the North-West University:

  • The activity must be linked interactively to an identifiable group in a community outside/inside the institution.
  • Interaction must be actively linked to identifiable needs of both the university and the community; in other words, a clear benefit for both the community and the university must have been identified. 
  • The interaction must be a sustained activity conducted within a mutually defined relationship/partnership.

Diagrammatically, the overlap between the areas of shared expertise within the context of the university can be depicted as follows:



Diagrammatically, the overlap between the areas of shared expertise within the context of the university can be depicted as follows:

Figure: Sharing-of-expertise management model