Academia's perceptions regarding community engagement activities and perceived roles of different actors within the Wellbeing I Nn ovation (WIN) Platform
The Higher Education Quality Committee resents the concept of community engagement as an initiative and process through which the expertise of the institution in the areas of teaching and research are applied to address issues relevant to its community. The Wellbeing INnovation Platform, a flagship community engagement platform within the Faculty of Health Sciences at the North-West University. This study sought to answer the question: What are the perceptions of the academia of their community engagement activities and roles within the Wellbeing INnovation Platform? The primary objectives of the study were to explore and describe the roles of different actors within the Wellbeing INnovation Platform as perceived by academia, and to explore and describe perceptions of academia on community engagement activities within the WIN Platform by applying a strategic auditing tool in the form of a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis. The strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis was used because such an analysis can help organisations uncover opportunities that they can take advantage of and can eliminate threats through understanding weaknesses. Ethical approval to conduct the study was obtained from the North-West University’s Health Research Ethics Committee and the Research Data Gatekeeper Committee of the university. There was a total of 45 (N=45) potential academic actors that formed the population and out of these, nine (n=9) availed themselves for interviews, resulting in a 20% response rate. Of these, five were directly involved in the WIN Platform, and the rest were involved with community engagement within the Africa Unit for Transdisciplinary Health Research who were exposed to the daily operations of the Wellbeing INnovation Platform. This study was exploratory and thus used a qualitative approach. Semi-structured interviews were conducted by an independent interviewer; and the interviews were recorded and then transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the results, with the coding list guided by the objectives of the study, the literature review, as well as the interview guide. An independent co-coder was used to verify the coding development and consistency. The data analysis concluded in five themes, 20 categories and 51 sub-categories. The five major themes identified were: academia holds varying perceptions on the key actors in the Wellbeing INnovation Platform and community engagement projects, academia’s perspectives on the strengths of the WIN Platform, academia’s perspectives on the weaknesses of the Wellbeing INnovation Platform, academia’s perspectives on the opportunities of the Wellbeing INnovation Platform, and academia’s perspectives on the threats to the Wellbeing INnovation Platform. The main strengths identified were well-coordinated activities with formalised structure, translating results into practice, and working with a community that has already been identified as having certain needs. Major weaknesses were organisational weaknesses related to researchers and students, actual distance from university to projects, and community-based reasons that can weaken the projects. Major opportunities were opportunities in the development of teaching and learning of students and future research, and the opportunity of saving on resources and optimising community engagement activities. Major threats identified were conflicting perspectives on the setup of research teams, the communities’ expectations and responsibilities, funding risks, and insufficient community engagement knowledge and training. The study concluded that a formal platform facilitates the development of reciprocal relationships between communities and higher education institutions and recommends that members of the community be included in the formal platform on a permanent basis.
- Health Sciences