Community-university engagement: Living Knowledge Conference 2018

Three members of our Engage Community attended the Living Knowledge Conference 2018, in Budapest, Hungary, thanks to the ACU Member Communities Conference bursaries. Here, John Boit, from Moi University in Kenya, shares his experience.

After a long flight from Nairobi, I finally touched down in Budapest, Hungary, ready for the first day of the ‘Living Knowledge Conference’. 

John Boit

The conference participants came from all over the world with a heavy presence from Europe, Canada and the USA. There were not many delegates from Africa and Asia present, and I wondered why. However, during the conference I came to learn that the concept of community engagement, which is largely championed by civil society organisations, is still a nascent concept in some parts of the developing world. 

I was one of three ACU bursary holders attending the conference – I was able to meet with Ipsit Pratap Singh from India at the opening plenary session and later with Farooq Shamaila from Pakistan. I really valued being able to meet with peers from elsewhere in the Commonwealth.

I attended many of the same sessions with Ipsit and Farooq. Our first day of the conference was spent in sessions with topics that were very relevant to our situations. I attempted to maintain an open mind as much as possible on the issues being discussed, whilst paying closer attention to those sessions with issues that touched on Community-University engagement. 

My experiences

The core functions of a university are teaching, research and community development. The conference themes and discussions were largely around these issues. I was able to experience different methods and models that have been developed to support community-university collaborations. As a university lecturer and researcher, I came to the realisation that universities must first begin to acknowledge the critical role of the community, civil society organisations and the need to engage them in university research practices and innovations. As universities, we must pledge to partner with the community and acknowledge that we owe to the community the goodwill and trust we continue to enjoy as we go about our academic functions.

John Boit with Ipsit and Shamalia

John with Ipsit Singh and Farooq Shamaila in one of the sessions.
I really enjoyed the conference, shared experiences, made many friends and hopefully created enduring networks. I wish to thank ACU for giving me the opportunity to attend the conference and for the once in a lifetime experience of meeting with participants with different worldviews, both from civil society organisations and universities, who are committed to making this world a better place through community engagement activities in their respective situations. I am already getting invitations to attend conferences and seminars from these networks. 

What I learned

Using the lessons learned from the conference, I intend to persuade the Moi University Management to create, within the Directorate of Research, a unit responsible for connecting the university with the community. This unit would spearhead the creation of sustainable community-university engagement activities within the context of partnerships that support community development processes. The unit would help define and guide faculty and student engagement with the community, and develop policies that will mainstream and embed community-university long-term relationships and engagement in university programmes. 

Member communitiesJohn Boit is a lecturer at Moi University in Nairobi.

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Last modified on 07/11/2018