Community Outreach

University of Cape Town establishes a permanent educational hub to increase its relevance
Community Outreach

THE UNIVERSITY OF CAPE TOWN in South Africa is reaching out into its surrounding community with a permanent educational hub known as the GSB Solution Space at Philippi Village. The initiative is backed by the university’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) and the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The space, which has been operational for about one year, had an official launch in July 2017.

“Our presence in the Philippi Village development is one way in which the GSB is deepening its roots and relevance as an African business school,” says Mills Soko, associate professor and GSB director. The school’s location at the V&A Waterfront—an area that includes hotels, landmarks, and tourism attractions—is “far from representative of the reality that the vast majority of South Africans face every day,” Soko adds.

The new space at Philippi Village is set up like a campus, with workspaces, lecture rooms, lounge areas, and meeting rooms designed to encourage entrepreneurship. About 3,000 people from the community have already attended more than 100 workshops and educational programs. In addition, all students at the GSB are encouraged to take at least one course at the Philippi Village satellite site.

“The reality is that we live in a thoroughly divided country and city from a geographic perspective, and that creates a divide in understanding, in connections, and in networks,” says Soko. When GSB students are in Philippi, he says, they develop empathy and resilience, and they open their eyes to wider perspectives. “All of those are vital attributes for the modern leader, especially one operating in an emerging market.”

The mixed-use space is 6,000 square meters (about 19,685 square feet) and includes a retail section as well as a public library. It also plays host to social enterprise businesses such as the Blue Door Early Childhood Development Venture, a preschool for about 40 children in the Philippi area; Lakheni, a bulk-buying initiative for low-income households; and Discover Ikasi, which promotes township tourism. In addition, the hub partners with the Raymond Ackerman Academy for Entrepreneurial Development, another unit at the GSB that works with youth who have not had the opportunity to pursue tertiary education.

Sarah-Anne Arnold, Solution Space manager, believes the school will have a long-term impact with the new educational hub. “Now we are really in a position to be a catalyst in enabling an ecosystem for inclusive development across sectors.”