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VID in Malawi: Sustainable Community Development and Eco-Social Change

Written by Georgios E. Trantas (PhD), Associate Professor at the Faculty of Theology, Diaconia and Leadership, VID Specialized University (Stavanger) Norway.

The project titled ‘Malawi, South Africa and Norway mobility programme in Sustainable Community Development and Eco-Social Change’ is aimed at developing a sustainable network for cooperation in community development and eco-social change studies at a Master’s level between VID Specialized University, the University of Malawi (UNIMA), and the University of Western Cape (UWC) by way of mobility of students and staff. This type of mobility takes place both physically and digitally, thus facilitating a collaborative framework for knowledge and skills exchange with our partner Universities in the Global South.

(University of Malawi - Photo: Maria Tendenes)

Mobility offers MA students from UNIMA and UWC the opportunity to attend VID’s classes and experience the corresponding academic social and cultural life for 11 months. They are enrolled in the MA course in Community Development and Social Innovation, while on the other hand, MA exchange students from VID can join UNIMA and UWC for 3-6 months in work placements with NGOs, research and writing of master theses, etc.

Within this framework, between the 30th of January and the 3rd of February 2023, a VID delegation was hosted by the University of Malawi where we met with our aforementioned partners. Among others, following an evaluation process that included the close examination of a commonly applied set of criteria pertaining to excellence, as the latter stems from academic performance and trajectory on paper, as well as interviews, we unanimously chose four candidates who will enrol to attend the MA course in Community Development and Social Innovation. Further, our efforts focused on developing a joint online course on Sustainable Development and Eco-Social Change, which will be offered as an elective course for master students in the three partner institutions, which will increase the reach of the programme and strengthen the collaboration, beyond the period of the project. Through the partnership, we will also develop an online master thesis forum where students from all three institutions will attend online workshops, engage in peer learning, offer and receive feedback on written texts and discuss flexible learning approaches related to research methods. Through analogous activities student (and teacher) interaction and mobility will be actively supported. This will also contribute to the development and enhancement of intercultural skills and knowledge on the practical implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals that can be transferred back to home countries.

(The VID team arriving in Malawi- Photo: Maria Tendenes)

Through this programme, we have realised the aspiration to facilitate sustained mutual student mobility and academic cooperation between the partners and, in so doing, to enhance the quality of the master programmes offered at the three institutions. The project is expected to further strengthen collaboration through joint teaching activities on themes that can contribute to expertise in community development and eco-social change as well as knowledge transfer in the areas of e-learning approaches. Moreover, staff mobility and increased collaboration between VID, UNIMA and UWC remains one of our short-term goals as well, by way of a productive mix of physical, virtual and blended learning means.

(Workshop on the master thesis forum - Photo: Maria Tendenes)

Ultimately, we aspire to a long-term sustainable relationship between UNIMA, VID and UWC that extends beyond the NORPART funding period, which shall enable the ongoing collaboration on education and research, whereby making a contribution towards capacity building and expertise of the involved faculties and supplying new knowledge and skills in community development and eco-social change as a field of study, not least, applicable via civil society organisations that can provide the much-needed practical experience for VID students.

You can read more about the project here.


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