calls for caring connections



Themed “Cultivating humanity”, the research day aimed to contribute to the three capacities needed to cultivate humanity. These are to:


  • critically examine yourself and your traditions
  • see yourself not only as a part of a group, but also as a human being, bound to all other human beings by ties of recognition and concern
  • cultivate the ability to imagine yourself in the shoes of someone who may be different from you.



Dr Laura Weiss, a researcher and postdoctoral fellow at Optentia, used this poster during the dialogue session she facilitated.

Caring connections can make a huge difference. This is especially true when it comes to helping young people who face extreme difficulties.


This truth was highlighted on 26 September, when the campus in Vanderbijlpark hosted the Optentia research focus area’s third annual research day.


The campus was abuzz with excitement as 300 people from various disciplines and entities interacted with each other. They came from higher education institutions, government departments and business organisations. The theme of the event was “Cultivating humanity: Generating and sharing evidence”.


The programme included a lecture, two webinar sessions, dialogues, project and poster presentations and the launch of the Yabelana App.


This app is a ground-breaking eDirectory system that connects older adults with services specific to their needs and available in their community. (You can read more about it here.)


Programme bursts at the seams


Optentia’s action-packed event kicked off with a lecture on cultivating humanity through caring connections by Prof Linda Theron, an extraordinary professor at the focus area.


Linda explained that caring connections matter for the resilience of South African adolescents facing chronic, unthinkable levels of hardship. Caring connections that prioritise human solidarity and the wellbeing of adolescents can make young people more resilient.


She urged delegates to champion the resilience of young people who are at risk. They can do this by joining hands with them, affirming their strengths and showing them that they are not alone.


Two live webinars connected the workshop attendees with researchers from countries such as Finland and Denmark, who shared their experience and expertise.


The research day was wrapped up with poster and dialogue sessions, where attendees had vigorous discussions on topics such as unemployment, gender-based violence and job insecurity.


Event yields new networks


Prof Ian Rothmann, Optentia director, says participants were excited about the new networks they developed. “Researchers and postgraduate students appreciated the opportunity to learn from international experts.”


In the dialogue groups, participants discussed ways to cultivate a humane society, and researchers from different research entities at the NWU learned more about each other’s research.


The event delivered other results too. There was at least one joint research funding application from two research entities and one proposal for collaboration with the community.