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DUT launched Community Engagement Showcase and Pitching Awards

DUT launched Community Engagement Showcase and Pitching Awards

The Community Engagement Office, under the DVC Research Innovation and Engagement, as part of its 2020 plans, launched the very first Community Engagement Showcase and Pitching Awards recognizing projects initiated by both staff and students. These efforts were meant to establish a baseline of the type of work and engagements taking place in this area aligned to ENVISION 2030 and embedded within the Research & Innovation and Teaching & Learning core functions of the University.

HYDRA POWERTen projects from each category of staff and students were selected from applications that were received following a call to apply for the awards. Applicants whose projects were selected to be in the top ten list were invited to showcase and pitch their projects in front of a panel of judges that included internal and external stakeholders. The judges’ panel was made up of representatives from government, industry, DUT, and civil society.

The showcase and pitching event was held virtually on Monday, 07 December 2020. Presenters were given 10 minutes to present their projects and the selection panel would score the project after each presentation.

The presenters reflected they were happy to have been allowed to pitch their projects. “I had great fun with my presentation. I am thankful for this opportunity given to us and I would like to wish all contestants the best of luck – may the best team win! We would like to thank the Community Engagement team for the opportunity, I wish that more students can see these opportunities and use them wisely, they mean a lot to us because these projects play an important role in our communities especially in these trying times,” shared Siseko Shude, who presented his project ‘Green Pavers’.

Another presenter, Professor Monique Marks, Director at the Urban Futures Centre, who presented her project ‘Bellhaven Harm Reduction Centre’ said that this event shows the seriousness of where DUT wants to take community engagement. “What we need to be doing as DUT is to become leaders in community engagement, we can showcase this event to other universities via a national body that is interested in universities’, she said.

One of the judges, Dr Collin Pillay, from MILE under the eThekwini Municipality, said that the quality of potential projects was set high and looks very promising. “Wow – what a session! I would like to congratulate the team at DUT for a well-organised pitching session this afternoon. I am hoping that my colleague from MILE Ms Deshini Pillay will consider assisting the Community Engagement Unit in capturing the projects as part of a series of Community Engaged KM Durban case studies in the new year,” he said.

Ms Candace Davidson from Hillcrest AIDS Centre was one of the facilitators on the day, she said that it a pleasure to support the community engagement presentations, the projects were very interesting. “I am impressed with the level of creativity and breadth of the projects presented and how they are trying to be meaningful and engaging with the community allowing academics and community work to mash together in such a unique way. So, congratulations to everyone on the projects you have embarked on. it makes our communities better places,” she said.

Professor Rai Bhagwan, an Associate Professor in the Child and Youth Care Programme, Faculty of Health Sciences, also one of the judges, reflected on the growth of the community engagement field at DUT. “It is heartening how the work of staff and students has been honoured this afternoon. I am grateful to see the awards come to fruition and I hope that they will inspire other staff and students to continue being engaged scholars,” she said.

The awards ceremony was held on Thursday, 10 December 2020 at 16h00 – 18h00 via Microsoft Teams. Winners of top prizes were announced during the ceremony.

Launching the awards was Professor Sibusiso Moyo, the DVC for Research Innovation and Engagement who said that these awards were not similar to the Council’s awards which recognizes staff performance on all key categories and one of those categories is community engagement. “We felt that as a University we needed to sensitize a number of faculties, staff, and students in terms of the work that is currently taking place in the University. The assumption shouldn’t be that nothing is taking place but there is a lot happening”, she said. She recognized all the guests that were presented representing key partners in government, industry, and civil society. She congratulated all the winners and said that the University wants community engagement embedded into the curriculum so that students can get credit for the community engagement that they undertake.

The top three projects in both staff and students’ categories received R30 000, R20 000, and R10 000 respectively from 1st to 3rd positions. All other projects that made it to the top ten will each receive R2500. All awards funds are to be spent within the 12 months towards the project awarded.

The top three projects initiated by staff were: In first position, was Bellhaven Harm Reduction Centre and the Project Leader is Professor Monique Marks from the Urban Futures Centre; second position was, One Home One Garden Project and the Project Leader is Ms. Nomfundo Luthuli from the Entrepreneurship Centre in Pietermaritzburg Campus; and the third position was Eco-friendly composite products and the Project Leader is Dr TP Mohan from the Mechanical Engineering Department.

The top three projects initiated by students were: In first position, was Hydra Power and the Project Leader is Mr Sameer Khan from the Department of Biotechnology, the second position went to the Enriching Foundation through Sustainability and the Project Leader is Mr Bheka Mbonambi from the Department of Horticulture, and the third position went to the Green Pavers and the Project Leader is Mr Sekelo Shude from the Department of Corporate Management.

Also awarded on the day is the special DVC Research Innovation and Engagement Award. This award was awarded to a staff member and a student that has shown exceptional commitment to community engagement in the past 12 months. To be selected they must have initiated and led mutually beneficial collaborations to service communities or created spaces for the practical application of knowledge to produce future-ready graduates. The winners were the staff – Professor Monique Marks for all projects under the Urban Futures Centre and student – Mr Fanie Ndlovu for all his projects under the VarsityGenie. They each received R10 000.00 prize.

All projects that were pitched will be showcased in a printed publication due to be published early next year. For more information on the projects that won the top prizes, follow the DUT Community Engagement Facebook page via @CommunityEngagementDUT.

Pictures 1: Bellhaven Harm Reduction Centre
Pictures 2: Hydra Power

Phumzile Xulu

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