Community Engagement & Outreach

Key Definitions and Principles of Community Engagement


Engaged university

An engaged university is one that promotes community engagement and outreach through its mission, values, resources and programmes. The engaged university actively develops strong relationships with communities and brings resources to bear on the improvement of life for community members, while advancing and enhancing scholarship. Benchmarks of an engaged university are strong university-community networks and partnerships, two-way knowledge mobilisation, open and collaborative planning, multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinarity (MIT) and sustained impact.

Engaged scholar

An engaged scholar collaborates with communities outside the academy for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity. An engaged scholar encourages the participation of non-academics in ways that enhance and broaden engagement and deliberation about critical social issues inside and outside the university. An engaged scholar understands the principles of cognitive justice, knowledge sharing and dialogue. Engaged scholars seek to facilitate a more active and engaged democracy by bringing affected communities into problem-solving work in ways that advance the public good with, and not merely for, the public.

Engaged scholarship

Engaged scholarship is creative intellectual work that relates teaching, learning and research to advancing community or public causes.


A community refers to social groupings involved in activities at any time, united through a common location, a common goal or professional, intellectual, social, economic and/or political linkages. Such communities can have their roots in the public or private sectors or in civil society.

Community engagement

Community engagement is defined as the scholarly activity of academic research and teaching that involves external communities and stakeholders in collaborative activities that address the critical development imperatives of South Africa and the African continent while also enriching the teaching, learning and research objectives of the university. Community engagement is a reciprocal process where knowledge and skills are mobilised by the institution to support development imperatives, while community knowledge and agency are absorbed by the institution to create socially responsive curriculum and research.

Community engaged research

Community engaged research is a collaborative process between the researcher and the engaged community that creates and disseminates knowledge with the goal of enriching academic praxis while strengthening the wellbeing of the community and supporting the human development agenda.

Community engaged teaching

Community engaged teaching refers to course- or curriculum-related teaching/learning activities that involve communities in a mutually beneficial manner. This includes internships, field placements, service learning and other community-based learning experiences.

Service learning

Service learning is a course-based, formally assessed, credit-bearing educational experience in which students actively participate in an organised service activity that meets a community need while also deepening their understanding of the course content. This is accomplished through reflection on their service activity as a means of gaining a deeper understanding of the learning outcomes, an enhanced sense of civic responsibility and/or a greater understanding of community life.


Outreach is defined as targeted and transformative empowerment activities and services rooted in scientific enquiry. While outreach is a unidirectional intervention with UNISA providing relevant services to external stakeholders, it may lead to community engagement. Outreach activities must be rooted in scholarship and disciplinary expertise, show evidence of careful planning and could lead to engaged research and teaching.


UNISA encourages staff to participate in relief and charitable activities. Charity is defined as the donation of personal time and/or resources by any UNISA employee, in their capacity as employees of UNISA. Staff must be mindful of their conduct when representing UNISA and adhere to institutional directives safeguarding the UNISA brand.

Social cohesion

Social cohesion is defined as the degree of social integration and inclusion in communities and society at large, and the extent to which mutual solidarity finds expression among individuals and communities. In terms of this definition, a community or society is cohesive to the extent that the inequalities, exclusions and disparities based on ethnicity, gender, class, nationality, age, disability or any other distinctions which engender divisions, distrust and conflict are reduced and/or eliminated in a planned and sustained manner. This will entail UNISA and communities working together for the attainment of shared goals, designed and agreed upon to improve the wellbeing of all concerned.


    1. Social Responsibility
    2. Social Cohesion
    3. Reciprocity and Equality
    4. Ethical Engagement
    5. Collaboration
    6. Utilisation of ODeL delivery modes
    7. Sustainability
    8. Graduateness

Last modified: Tue Jun 20 14:24:10 SAST 2017