Online course opens doors for change-makers

A free online course is empowering Mitchell's Plain youth.

The Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB) and NPO Reconstructed Living Lab (RLabs) are empowering youth through their free course titled “Becoming a changemaker: Introduction to Social Innovation”.

The six-week course which started on Monday November 14 and will end on Tuesday December 15, is aimed at anyone over the age of 17, who has an interest in becoming a change-maker and successful social entrepreneur or innovator in their community.

The course is presented online and facilitated at 19 Mulberry Mall, in Strandfontein.

Marlon Parker, founder of RLabs and one of the initiators of the course, said many of the challenges facing communities in South Africa actually represent opportunities, which can be turned into businesses and have the potential to create jobs for others.

“The course has been designed to show individuals how they can make a difference, how they might, for instance, use social media to market an organisation or enterprise or how the resources at a library can be used to mobilise a youth group. It is about showing people how problems can be solved innovatively and creatively,” he said.

Mr Parker said the Strandfontein venue is a place where people can connect, brainstorm ideas and do the course online.

“There will be someone to help facilitate the course content offline, to explain concepts and provide further assistance.”

RLabs has also formed a partnership with the Department of Social Development to run a Youth Café in Rocklands. At the café, people young and old are able to participate in various programmes for free. The course is UCT’s sixth Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that is being made freely available online through UCT’s Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching (CILT) and international online learning platform, Coursera.

Jamie Abrahams,18, from Lentegeur said she finds the course interesting and very informative and that she has learnt more about her community, particularly the social ills which break down society.

“We had to identify a problem in our community, mine was school drop-outs and unemployment of young people. We often find our young people roaming the streets and being unemployed. Sadly, they cannot get a job, because of their education, and turn to drugs and gangsterism,” she said.

Jamie, who has been part of the Rocklands Youth Café for about a year, hopes that she will be well equipped to assist her community.

“The more I learn, the better. I aim to empower myself and my,” she said.

André Visser from Lenteguer has been part of the course for a week. “I am enjoying the course, and I am learning a lot from the sessions. I think that this is a great opportunity for residents, because it involves the community. I have chosen drugs as a topic, because drug abuse is a real issue in my community.

“I look forward to the next few sessions, and thank the partners presenting the programmes,” he said.

Director of the Bertha Centre, Dr Francois Bonnici, said the format of the MOOC programme lowers the barrier of access to the internet and data costs as the content will be available offline to the participants and will be contextualised by the local facilitators.

Mr Parker said the course material was presented by UCT Graduate School of Business social innovation and entrepreneurship lecturers, among them Dr Bonnici and Dr Warren Nilsson.

Dr Bonnici said: “We are excited about pioneering a new kind of MOOC that will reach deeper into communities. It will also advance access to quality education to catalyse social change.”

MOOCs Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sandra Klopper said there has been awareness of the scarcity of contributing universities from Africa in particular.

“We believe there is an opportunity to share knowledge generated from our leading academics and researchers, and to showcase the university’s rich array of intellectual and teaching resources,” she said.

For more information on the course or to sign up visit: