Nelson Mandela University (NMU) launched the first of a number of digital laboratories in Port Elizabeth – to tell the stories of the voiceless and provide opportunities for effective and targeted partnerships to deal with social problems in communities.

The programme, to be introduced at five other South African universities soon, aims to link community projects to one another and to higher-education institutions around the world using a web-based knowledge bank and innovative digital storytelling.

It aims to identify community projects and work with them to promote their objectives online and to investigate how the academic network can fashion innovative approaches to social change in response to the challenges facing the projects.

GCU is the developer and primary co-ordinator of the project, with NMU being the lead South African partner and co-ordinator.

Common Good First is funded by EU programme Erasmus+, a funding stream for education.

Julie Adair, director of digital collaboration at GCU and Common Good First Project lead, said the programme was already working in five of South Africa’s nine provinces and is being developed for use on mobile phones.

She said the aim was to build a cohort of up to 90 community projects at the outset and then grow this to include partners around the world.

GCU principal and vice-chancellor Professor Pamela Gillies said the world needed social innovation to build trust and increase social capital in communities.

She said: “Our fractured world sorely needs social innovations that build trust and increase social capital in communities on the way to solving local problems.

“The Common Good First initiative led by Julie Adair has created a unique partnership of universities across South Africa and Europe which are helping local interventions share their stories of success across national and cultural boundaries through the simplest of technologies.”

Dr Annie Lennox, GCU Chancellor, pledged her support in a video message.



Glasgow Caledonian University