With the concept of a community-driven global network sparked by Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Pamela Gillies CBE FRSE, GCU has been working with the Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and the Social Economy at the University of Johannesburg on a six-month pilot to identify community projects in Glasgow and the Gauteng province in South Africa which could be brought to life through video, social media, the web and digital storytelling tools.

A number of initiatives focused on youth and education were selected for the pilot, including Fear Free Life, a Johannesburg group working on crime prevention through visits to high schools in communities where gangs operate, Drumchapel’s G15 Youth Project, Soweto’s Kliptown Youth Project, and Freedom Bakery, which provides prisoners with skills that make them employable.

Led by GCU’s Director of Digital Collaboration Julie Adair, the Common Good First team has worked with the community projects to, first, promote their objectives online and then to investigate how academic networks could input innovative approaches to social change in response to the challenges the projects are facing.

The platform will draw on the expertise of academics working in cross-disciplinary teams, who will compare and evaluate these community solutions and offer research opportunities, real-world examples of social innovation for learning and teaching across the University and practical opportunities for student engagement.

Julie said: “Firstly, we wanted to see if a dual-location programme would work. Many social innovation organisations need support in building strong, collaborative networks and to find ways of communicating their projects’ aims. The digital element is really important. By helping these communities to tell their stories, they will open their projects up to the world, and potentially gain more support, self-validation and investment.”

The Common Good First team aims to work with additional projects with a focus on housing and environment (including water and sanitation) and health and wellbeing (including food security), and to establish a global digital platform acting as a connected, rigorously evaluated digital knowledge bank of current solutions to global problems.

GCU Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Pamela Gillies CBE FRSE said: “As the University for the Common Good, GCU aims to have a global reputation for delivering social benefit and impact through education, research and social innovation.”



Glasgow Caledonian University

University of Johannesburg