KYOTO, 26 September 2017 – One of the programmes held at the 5th University-Community Engagement Conference (UCEC) 2017 here was a forum entitled "Leadership in University-Community Engagement". 

Moderated by Tuan Syed Yusof Syed Kechik and Professor Dato' Dr. Aileen Tan Shau Hwai, the forum was organised in two sessions, with the first session focusing on the understanding of ‘leadership’ in the context of university-community engagement, definition of community engagement and volunteerism. It was followed by a case study, which shared on real-time examples of community engagement and volunteerism. Close to 30 participants attended the forum. 

Syed Yusof, as the moderator, emphasised that community engagement (CE) is a process by which organisations and individuals build ongoing, permanent relationships; and apply a collaborative vision to benefit the community. It encompasses participation from the beginning by identifying issues and mobilising relevant resources and strategies in improving the community towards change.

He added that, the elements of engagement, partnership, coalitions and sustainability are essential in ensuring the community’s social functions and well-being. Community engagement requires voluntary participation of all parties which results in mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources.

"When we talk about community engagement, it is not the type of community engagement that others practice, because coming from the university, we need to take CE to another level by emphasizing on inclusiveness of social innovation. Social innovation here must ensure that there is value and impact on engagement that can be translated to benefit the community," he said.

Aileen on the other hand, re-iterated on the various methods of engaging with the community and taking the leadership role in hand to ensure that the community benefits from the engagement with a sustainable impact and output. One perfect picture of such engagement is her oyster project, whereby it actively encourages the rural coastal communities in culturing oysters and mussels to promote “green aquaculture” as well as to create a sustainable income for the local communities.

"It is not easy to penetrate into the community, especially those based in rural areas, yet it takes a lot of convincing and mutual trust from both parties to evolve into a successful community engagement, and at the same time meets all the elements within the Quadruple Helix model," said Aileen.

Furthermore, Aileen has also mentioned that this project not only addresses sustainability at the society level, but it also encompasses environmental and economical sustainability. For this to happen, we need to change the game plan by not imposing the engagement that we want to do, but instead listen to the community and work together to understand their needs.

Syed Yusof leads the Community Network efforts at the Division of Industry and Community Network (BJIM) in Universiti Sains Malaysia, with many successful flagship projects that have been transformed into a national agenda.

Aileen on the other hand, is the Executive Director of APUCEN, a regional network of academic institutions of higher learning concerned with promoting the culture of university-community engagement in a proactive, inclusive, holistic and participatory way.

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