Dynamics of building a better society: Reflections on ten years of development cooperation and capacity building
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The modern world is an environment of rapid change. Per Dalin points out that we are experiencing an unprecedented ten revolutions occurring simultaneously. There are revolutions prompted by globalisation and the population explosion, revolutions in knowledge and information, in the economy, technology, ecology, culture, politics, aesthetics, and values. Dealing with change on this scale requires a paradigm shift of the kind last experienced when science began to deepen its challenge to other forms of knowing in the 17th century. We have to learn to know and see differently. That is not easy. With this in mind, the philosopher Manuel Castells points us to a combination of global knowledge, networks and communication as our fundamental means of dealing with the challenges of the 21st century. We need to work in partnerships. There can be no going it alone. Learning to see and understand differently is still the primary challenge in South Africa’s ongoing transition to democracy. 20 years ago, emerging from the apartheid past with a mission to engage with apartheid’s terrible ongoing legacy, UWC knew that it needed partners to face Dalin’s ten revolutions in their local incarnations. Transformation of the kind that enables people to move beyond apartheid’s authoritarian certainties requires a profound paradigm shift from both oppressor and oppressed. This shift is inseparable from a global challenge. New perspectives and new knowledge are required to respond to the non-linear, persistent and ubiquitous changes, both social and natural, that are now beginning to impact on humans across the world. It is in partnerships across cultures and nationalities that we are most likely to gain these perspectives and find this knowledge. And it is in partnerships that we find the assurance and the social conviction necessary to make the new knowledge and perspectives available and ultimately unavoidable. This understanding lay behind our response in 2002 to the panel interviewing us as shortlisted candidates for the VLIR-UOS institutional university cooperation programme. The panellists expressed profound doubts about our choice of the Humanities and the Social Sciences above the Natural Sciences as the main thrust of the programme. We explained that our vision and mission led us to believe that we must try to create a sense of co-responsibility amongst all humans if we are to confront successfully the already threatening changes to our physical and social environment. We argued that our future as a species would depend essentially on the success of our collaborative relationships with other humans globally. This called for a caring and open perspective. Clearly, our vision was convincing. We were selected. A decade of partnership with Flemish universities has been a major factor in the rapid advances that UWC has made in that period. The programme, co-created by UWC , VLIR-UOS and four Flemish universities, has focused on “The Dynamics of Building a Better Society”. In caring about how change takes place and being open to its complexity, we strove together, with signal success, to build capacity, stimulate research, and on the strength of actual achievements to create Research Centres in 5 strategic areas: The African Centre for Citizenship and Democracy The Interdisciplinary Centre of Excellence for Sports Sciences and Development The Centre for Research in HIV and AIDS The Institute for Water Studies The Centre for Multilingualism and Diversities Research This book tells the story of how we did so. It is a celebration of people from two cultures learning to work together in the interests of humankind, and doing so successfully.