How many great ideas does it take to make a positive impact on a community? Surprisingly, the answer can be just one, but a single great idea often requires the efforts of dozens or more people to bring it into reality. Identifying and leveraging the right resources are key to realizing great ideas anywhere.
The Listening, Living & Learning initiative at Stellenbosch University is one of the first of its kind in the province, country and continent. It is focused on identifying and adjusting students’ perceptions of ‘the other’ (those who are different from them) through a process of experiential learning. In this context, learning is viewed as the process of making new or revised interpretations of the meaning of an experience which guides subsequent understanding, appreciation and action.
South Africa and Africa are a country and continent riddled with pluralisms across wide-ranging spheres. To maximize the benefits that this setup presents, respect for each-others’ differences, thorough integration, and indeed an understanding of the meaning of integration is important. In order to ultimately advance to the point of valuing diversity, plurality and difference, it is essential that fundamental ways of understanding and relating to people are in place. This is particularly important in the current context since good, healthy interaction serves as a solid foundation for development and will pave the way for the transformers of tomorrow, our current student leadership body, to identify and negotiate the development challenges of our time.
Accelerating leadership development in South Africa has become a national imperative. The aging, dwindling cohort of talented leaders across various areas of influence is creating urgency in developing talented individuals to succeed this soon to be diminishing group. Filling this leadership talent gap is a major challenge and opportunity for higher education.
In positioning ourselves to play a significant role in closing the divide between Africa’s challenges and and finding resolve therefore, Stellenbosch University has committed to reposition the institution for continued excellence through our core shared value of HOPE. Using our current success as a point of departure, we are transforming Stellenbosch into an institution not only significantly different from its past, but also significantly better. To accomplish this goal, we aim to produce dynamic young individuals who will take the continent to new world rankings in the global knowledge economy. We therefore need change agents to “keep the hope alive” if this effort to is to succeed.
Stellenbosch University’s Listening, Living and Learning (LLL) Houses and student communities are designed to address this need by providing students with a unique on-campus living environment together with an educational, service orientated programme. Themed Houses create unique opportunities for education within the living spaces. Students are able to communicate and engage courageously and collaboratively with peers, donors, academics, politicians, other institutions (local and international), visitors to the university, the Rectorate and the community at large – to promote a live and learn cohort that becomes an innovative “think tank”.
Across the nation we see persistent weaknesses in terms of such in-house leadership initiatives, resource investments, real integration, and pedagogical change. Some of the benefits of the LLL include: