By Miléna Salci

On 28 – 29 November 2022, Falling Walls Engage brought together 50 Science Engagement practitioners, representatives from science institutions, researchers and students for an inspiring two-day event on Science Engagement and Planetary Health, under the sun of Cape Town. This event, organised in collaboration with the University of the Western Cape and hosted by the International Relations Office and the Faculty of Natural Sciences, marked the launch of a new Engage Hub in South Africa – the 9th country to join the international Hub network.

"The launch of the Hub was so exciting for me because I was able to engage with various practitioners who are doing really amazing things [...]. My brain has expanded in the sense of how I want to communicate science."

Anne Chisa

HOST OF THE ROOT OF SCIENCE PODCAST & FALLING WALLS ENGAGE FINALIST 2020

Guided by the four elements – Fire, Water, Air and Earth – participants discussed best practices, opportunities and challenges for engaging communities with science in their respective fields. Topics included agrarian justice, alternative energies, healthcare, water and food security, biodiversity, indigenous knowledge, human-animal relations and access to STEM education.

The four panel chairs – Dr David Fig (University of Cape Town & Biowatch South Africa), Dr Amber Abrams (Future Water Institute, University of Cape Town), Dr Zani De Wit (University of Cape Town) and Dr Aviva Tugendhaft (University of the Witwatersrand) provided rich insights on engagement approaches aiming to achieve equality and social justice, from research and community engagement to activism, and policy development.

There was also room to share insights on broader issues: the institutionalisation of the field, funding and impact in South Africa – one the rare countries to have the right to “meaningful engagement” enshrined in its constitution. With regard to education, discussions also addressed the need for more multi-and transdisciplinary learning and teaching to develop relevant and people-centered engagement approaches among students and researchers.

The poems of Stacy M. Hardy and the whale songs of Sara Niksic enlightened the event with reflections on the power of art and human relatedness to nature.

Overall, this inspiring Hub event reflected a strong consensus among participants to continue linking ethical research and practice, and pursue a long South African tradition of community engagement as a driver for transformative change and social and racial justice.

"The work of the Hub will be very vital to all these questions. It's a place where we can learn from one another, where we can collaborate across different projects."

DR DAVID FIG

ENVIRONMENTAL SOCIOLOGIST & CHAIR OF THE BOARD OF BIOWATCH SOUTH AFRICA

We thank our partners, participants and speakers for contributing to an inspiring Hub launch event particularly Jacqueline Goldin and the team of UWC and are looking forward to future Hub activities.

Find out more about the Falling Walls Engage Hub South Africa and the full event program here.