Community Engagement and Social Innovation Symposium

Rhodes University and Durban University of Technology

The Rhodes University Community Engagement Division and Durban University of Technology, in partnership with the Common Good First project, invite you to a Symposium on Community Engagement and Social Innovation to be held at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa.

Globally, we have recognised the complexity inherent in the process of building just and sustainable societies. The challenges confronting this process is compounded by the interconnection between poverty, inequality and unemployment. Social innovation has a critical role to play in meeting the challenges that societies experience across the globe.

In its broadest sense, social innovation encompasses creative, community-cantered transformations that address societal issues and challenges. The relationships and collaborations which emerge through the processes and products of social innovation all rest, fundamentally, on the level and nature of engagement between and among the different stakeholder groups. For the purpose of the conference:

Social innovations are, in a significant way, new and disruptive towards the routines and structures prevailing in a given system or local setting (WILCO.EU 2014) that stagnates, or prevents solutions to societal issues and problems.

Social innovations are intended to meet specific social needs and focuses on changing power structures to benefit vulnerable groups Ultimately, the social innovations must “aim to transform social relations by improving the access to power and resources for a specific target group”, and “contribute to discourses about the public good and the just society”. The innovative aspect is understood as a novelty where as “new to the context in which it appears” (TEPSIE 2014, 14).
Social innovation is a mechanism of change, and “more than a mere appendage, side effect and result of technological innovation” specific social needs and problems are to be solved by combining new and existing practises. Innovation is understood as new social practices-practises refers to “concepts, policy instruments, new forms of cooperation and organisation (SI-Drive 2014, 9),

Context plays a significant role in the creation, implementation and understanding of social innovation. Therefore, critical debate on the nature of both social innovation and engagement, as well as the relationship between these two important concepts is essential for informing future scholarship and practice in these intersecting areas as they contribute to solutions for community well-being and social cohesion.

The purpose of the community engagement symposium is to bring together and provide a platform for civil society organisations (CSOs) students and academics of higher education institutions to share, showcase and promote social innovation in engaged research, teaching and learning. The symposium aims to build or enhance local, national and international partnership relationships between CSOs and higher education institutions.

  • To understand the influence, challenges and impact of local context on social innovation.
  • To explore how collaboration and co-production with the various partners enhance social cohesion.
  • To contribute to the construction of theory and practice in social innovation through community engagement.

You are invited to submit proposals for presentation at the conference. Presentations by CSOs as well as university staff and students that relate to any aspect of social innovation and/ engagement and contribute to one or more of the objectives of the conference are welcome.
Submissions of abstracts (of not more than 600 words) close on the 9th of March (expedited review can be arranged for International authors via email). Email submissions to
Submissions are being accepted for scholarly presentations in a variety of formats.

Presentation Categories:

Research Papers: This form of presentation is theoretically grounded in published theory or may introduce new theoretical insights about community engagement and social innovation derived from practice. The research may introduce a new framework, model or theory developed research and\ or practice.
Posters: This medium may be used to demonstrate best practice, a new model or framework. It could also convey a specific way of doing community engaged social innovation through which others can learn. This medium is also conducive to outlining quantitative research or could be used to market learning opportunities at their institutions.
Storytelling: A medium to share best practice of community engaged learning projects, programmes or approaches. A ‘story’ presentation should describe the context, outlining the practice and demonstrate the benefit of using this practice to the audience.
Workshops: This form of presentation aims to build the audience’s capacity on the diverse areas of community engagement and social innovation through ample discussion and activity.

Symposium Details

Venue: Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa

Date: 9 – 11 May 2018

Fees: R2000 (includes conference pack, teas, lunches, refreshments and gala dinner): R800 for Students.
Reduced rates can be requested by sending a motivation letter to, these are limited to CSOs and students.
You can register for the symposium on this link:
Additional Information

A Digital Story telling course will be held before the conference (7 and 8 May) aimed at Practitioners who wish to use the storytelling methodology in their work. Only 20 spaces will be available at an additional cost of R1200 per person.

For more information

Phone: +27 46 6037229 or email:

Event Start Date: 
Wednesday, 9 May, 2018
Event End Date: 
Friday, 11 May, 2018
Event Venue: 
Grahamstown, Eastern Cape
Event Type: 
South Africa

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