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  • Community engagement research in South Africa - Methods, theories, histories and practice
  • Van Eeden E, Eloff I, Dippenaar H
  • ISBN: 9780627037931
  • eISBN: N/A
  • ePub ISBN: 9780627037948
  • 555 Pages | Published: 2022

Universities across the world strive to be engaged institutions whose purpose is to foster positive social change through teaching, research and community engagement. The integration of these roles may sometimes hinder authentic engagement. Community engagement research in South Africa: histories, methods, theories and practice proposes a transformative model for engagement, in which societal involvement is the driving force behind all activities of the university. This overarching focus serves to blur the divisions between the core higher education and training activities as research becomes more community-based and teaching prepares students to be agents to be informed by research through teaching and learning, and to be agents for positive social change in all spheres of life.


This idea is explored throughout the book, with chapters written by renowned community engagement practitioners and scholars of various disciplines. Contributions map community engagement interventions in the intersections of fields such as education, the social sciences, psychology, health, planning, engineering and architecture. They share best practices and draw from theoretical scholarship and practical experience, innovative ways of conceptualising, establishing and “community experiencing” projects. Based on original research, contributors encourage thought of modelling the practical implementation of community engagement at universities.


Elize S van Eeden is an NRF-rated researcher and professor of History and Deputy Director in the School of Social Sciences at the Vanderbijlpark campus of the North-West University. Her research interests are Regional history (also in multidisciplinary contexts), History teaching practices and regional studies in ecohealth & wellbeing research. She is author and editor of leading publications in Regional histories and in History teaching, including Teaching & Learning History and Geography in the South African Classroom, published by Van Schaik Publishers.


Irma Eloff is a professor of Educational Psychology and former dean of Education at the University of Pretoria. She is a guest professor at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. As a registered psychologist her research focuses on sustainable development, quality of life and wellbeing.


Hanlie Dippenaar is an associate professor in the Department of English (Faculty of Education) at the Wellington campus of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. She has published widely on language acquisition, pre-service teacher training, service-learning and community engagement.



Those of us who are interested in strengthening higher education’s commitment to advancing the public good are fortunate to have this excellent volume to inspire us, to guide our practice, and to deepen our understanding of the potential and promise of community engagement research and service-learning to fulfil that commitment.


Section A

Science in (and) community and (in) research

Thoughts from academia

Science for society: the practice of community engagement

Chapter 1: Mirroring 25 years of community engagement research and practice in South Africa


Section B

Theories in community engagement and other modes of participatory collaboration

Thoughts from academia

Research and service-learning for the enhancement of pre-service teachers and communities

Chapter 2: Understanding the gemeinschaft in student-led community engagement in higher education

Chapter 3: Service-learning as a “boundary practice” in higher  education: an activity theory lens

Chapter 4: University engagement practitioners on the challenges and benefits of higher education engagement and its institutionalisation

Chapter 5: Collaboration embedded in service-learning through the lenses of a network of activity systems and a Change Laboratory


Section C

Methods of community engagement: indigenous community health care and wellbeing

Thoughts from academia

Community centric curriculum: an engaged curriculum approach to student teaching and learning

Chapter 6: Reflections on the process of ethical co-creation of knowledge with community partners – lessons learnt

Chapter 7: Affordances of indigenous knowledge systems for community engagement by educational institutions in South Africa

Chapter 8: Observing freedoms and unfreedoms in rural and urban communities – challenges to leading a life people have reason to value

Chapter 9: International collaboration in community intervention programmes: developments and challenges


Section D

Methods of community engagement: rural and urban contexts

Thoughts from academia

Inclusive and collaborative community research – Ndumo, KwaZulu-Natal

Chapter 10: Inclusive community engagement studies: sharing moments of integrative multidisciplinary research in the Far West Rand region

Chapter 11: Building strong educational pathways from early childhood development to tertiary education: a case study of Mamelodi township

Chapter 12: Benefits of community engagement practice in the context of higher education and rural school partnership: multiperspective voices

Chapter 13: On the researcher-researched relationship in educational psychological research with vulnerable populations

Chapter 14: Engagement with mining-affected communities: lessons learnt – a case study within the West Rand Goldfields

Chapter 15: Engaging with complexity: wicked problems in a southern context


Section E

Science for society: the practice of community engagement

Thoughts from academia

Community engagement in higher education and training in the future: from theory to practice

Chapter 16: Moving community engagement in South Africa from rhetoric to reality through engaged scholarship

Chapter 17: The relevance of social responsibility in empowering students with required Fourth Industrial Revolution power skills through a service-learning module

Chapter 18: Strength-based activities in community intervention: an example of a restorative justice programme in a South African female correctional centre

Chapter 19: Towards a live project framework for community  engagement in South Africa: an architectural education perspective

Chapter 20: The transformative pedagogical potential of pre-service teacher professional learning communities embedded in a mathematics service-learning course

Chapter 21: Valuing the world café in a South African context

Chapter 22: Conducting fieldwork in South African communities:  challenges and best practices

Chapter 23: Studying processes and experiences: ethnographic tools for experiential field research in communities

Chapter 24: Towards a responsive community engagement: reflections of key stakeholders

Chapter 25: Higher education and training’s responsibility in 21st-century societies: considering a redefined and integrated engagement

Chapter 26: The Sustainable Development Goals and community-based collaboration and research


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