Whereas community engagement at LivingStone International University (LIU) is still young, the 2020 strategy targets possibilities of learning and embracing Carnegie classification which “reaffirms institutional commitment to deepen the practice of service and to further strengthen bonds between campus and community” (Driscoll, 2019). However, LIU community engagement program (LIU-CEP) is yet to learn and understand fully the Carnegie classification. The immediate issues to address in 2020 are: empowerment of university student’s leadership and overhauling the management system; instituting more broader engagement base by registering the community engagement group as a Community Based Organization under a tentative name “Community Engagement Empowerment Initiative-Africa”, operating of course within the limits of LIU vision and mission; setting strategies to enlarge the community engagement to both national and international levels through partnership engagement with other institutions of higher learning, companies and organisations of similar interests; and improve performance and involvement in the community engagement of existing activities.
In 2020, the restructuring of the community engagement management system will comprise of a student leader, student mobilizer, student project organiser, and student external relations organiser and student documentarist. The program will also engage and involve willing staff in the community engagement program; enhance community and partnership platform with identification of new partners and strengthening linkages with institutions of higher learning; advance environmental protection through tree planting, and harnessing it to the government program on environment conservation. Special consideration will focus on gender equality and the community, literacy campaign among the marginalised children and women. Other important areas and projects include; health-Fistula project; fund-raising package to support community engagement; broadening the community engagement by involving other schools (Faculties) within the university, and community reach out scheme. Gender and equality and the community project will be singled out as an engagement which will be documented for the September, 2020 TNLC Conference.
The LIU-CEP Student Leader is responsible for managing and strengthening campus community partnerships; participate in decision-making on the LIU-CEP; liaise with the Coordinator and representatives of the communities in planning, budgeting and implementing the planned activities; table issues of the community engagement to the university administration for consideration; administer the participation of students in the community engagement activities; and liaise with Talloires Network and its engaged members globally on consultation with the Coordinator.
The Mobiliser of LIU-CEP role is to mobilise students for the community engagement events/activities; motivate students and guide them to understand the benefits of the community engagement and future progress; and register interested students as members of the community engagement group. The LIU-CEP Student Project Organiser oversees and organises student and community projects/activities; draws up semester activities and coordinates with the community groups to discuss and make decisions on intended or already existing projects; and design suitable environmental activities for implementation. The Student External Relations Organiser in liaise with the Coordinator links LIU-CEP with other publics; institutions of high learning; Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Companies etc. with similar interests. The drive is to establish relationships with institutions and organisations in order to share experiences, ideas and issues of community engagement, with one another and solicit support for LIU-CEP. The Student Documentarist role is to document and all activities and events of LIU-CEP by the use of electronic devices (videography, print, digital photography), develop and design thematic Information, Education and Communication (IEC) tools for sensitization and publicity, and archive the designed and produced informational materials. Keep LIU-CEP on the LIU Web and Facebook platform.
Benefits of LIU-CEP to students
One of the most obvious reasons to volunteer and be part of civic engagement is that it enhances student’s resume and boosts grades and academic potential. According to researchers, students who do community service are more likely to do well in school; create Networks with other communities and share ideas and enhance as well as boost knowledge; become a better person in the society, i.e. exposed, knowledgeable; and have a healthy mind in a healthy body thus enjoy a health boost.
The impact of the community engagement on participating students is amazing since its inception. The students involved are progressively experiencing change in their lives, behaviours and involvement. As observed and through testimonies, the LIU-CEP desk registered some areas of success.
Several students learned and acquired practical entrepreneurship skills for economic gain. Other students and graduates acquired skills for constructing energy saving stoves, liquid soap making, nursery setting and tree planting and community mobilization. Today, Bubakar Okudo, a third year media technology student, and team members make liquid soap, and supplies the university and the public with the product after being trained by LIU_CEP.
Some students have acquired Leadership skills which they apply in implementing community engagement activities such as organising and chairing student-community meetings and organisation inter-university events. This has helped students to cultivate connections between the university and community groups, which can prove to be very useful later on in life. A typical example is Phionah Sakwa a fourth year Media Technology student who was able to represent LIU-CEP in Talloires Networks Steering Committee meeting in New York, USA on 2nd and 3rd December 2019. Besides, students have also developed social skills which they use for outreach responsibilities such as visiting inmates in prisons, the sick in the hospital and the orphanages.
It was not a surprise when Talloires Networks Executive Director, Hoyt Lorlene, invited one of the LivingStone International University (LIU) students and member of community engagement program (CEP), Phionah Sakwa (aka Fifi II), Student Leader and the Guild Vice President, to represent LIU in Talloires Networks Steering Committee meeting held in New York 2nd and 3rd December 2019. The LIU civic engagement is steadily growing with visible results. Initial external financial support came from two awards; Faculty Support Grant program to Cohort members of which LIU was one of the ten members who benefited from the grant in 2016.
The Second award was in 2018 from MacJannet Award 2018, also internal support from the LIU management. Consequently, LIU community engagement was able to partner with Bungokho Rural Development Centre (BRDC) through promotion of an Energy Saving Stove in 2016-2017, and with Busamaga Women Group through application of skills acquired from BRDC to the communities of Busamaga by introducing energy saving stoves, tree nursery setting and planting, capacity building of both students and the community in entrepreneurship; liquid soap and shampoo making for business and personal consumption.
In the second half of 2019, LIU community engagement carried out benchmarking with other universities in Uganda. A Consultative and meeting took place between LivingStone International University Civic Engagement Coordinator Efiti Filliam, Dean of the School of Media Technology and Muni University (Public University) and Rev Can Patrick Acema, Chaplain of the University and the Coordinator, Community Engagement Program. The two people shared their experiences and promised to have partnership established between the two universities. Currently, the LIU community engagement is venturing to establish partnership with Uganda Christian University, Mbale Campus. However, financial shortfall and student’s liquidity unsteady participation and low engagement of the staff remain challenging to the program. However, in the year 2020 the civic engagement leaders target to address these challenges as much as possible.
Update:. Phionah Sakwa – New York, USA, meeting 2nd and 3rd December, 2019.
Miss Phionah Sakwa, LivingStone International University (LIU) School of Media Technology student who is also the Guild Vice President and a member of the LIU Community Engagement program expressed her gratitude to the administration of the University for the opportunity granted to her to participate in the Talloires Network Steering Committee Meeting. The meeting took place on 2nd and 3rd, December 2019 in New York, USA.
In her report on Talloires Network Steering Committee addressed to the LIU Community Engagement program Coordinator. Mr. Efiti Filliam, Phionah stated that LIU community Engagement Program was well represented, and to the best of her knowledge. Consequently, the New York meeting recognised her as one of the most active African student leaders who tirelessly attempts to make the world a better place through civic engagement.
“I’m also thankful to God that my trip to New York for the meeting was successful and unforgettable because I experienced greatness from the things I saw and touched to the interactions I had with the influential people I was able to meet.”
The meeting was held at one of New York’s most prestigious hotel, Sofitel. One of the major topics the meeting primarily dived deep into was to assess how higher institutions of learning can work with community leaders to address critical issues affecting communities globally. Amidst the discussions, guests from Harvard and Brown universities presented a critical highlight on the purpose of the Elective Carnegie Community Engagement Classification as a guiding tool to ensuring there’s a justifiable collaboration between institutions of higher learning and the larger communities.
Discussing the role of university leaders in engaging with their communities was validated as a mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity. This defined the purpose of engagement as; the partnership of college and university knowledge and resources with those of the public and private sectors to enrich scholarship, research, and creative activity; enhance curriculum, teaching and learning; prepare educated, engaged citizens; strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility, address critical societal issues and contribute to the public good.
September 2020 Conference
The meeting also passed the schedule outline for the upcoming Talloires Network Leaders Conference (TNLC) due for September 2020 from 24th-28th at Tufts and Harvard universities.
Hon. Phionah Sakwa later on participated in the online election process to vote for a new member to sit on the Steering Committee for Talloires Network. The winning member will jointly work with other engaged members to push for the growth of global civic responsibility in both a practical and theoretical sense.
Basing on the highlights on the previous TNLC that was held in Mexico two years ago (2017), the meeting realised there was need for the establishment of more viable projects that can link universities to the communities: this can be a sustainable breakthrough for world of social justice and climate justice. As a point of emphasis, the new students representative elect for Talloires, Mr. Chau Au, encouraged all leaders from engaged universities to keep building a stronger networking system with each other that can eventually cause a global impact that everyone needs to see.
Lastly, in a separate conversation Mr. Chau had with Hon. Phionah Sakwa, the newly elected students’ representative hopes to visit Uganda this year 2020 to ascertain the level LIU and other universities involvement in community engagement.
Coordinator Community Engagement LIU.