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Linking Universities and Marginalised Communities: South African Case Studies of Innovation Focused on Livelihoods in Informal Settings

Glenda Kruss and Michael Gastrow

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South African universities are mandated to promote scholarship that is socially and economically responsive to local contexts. The contribution of universities to innovation is a key driver of economic and social development, but should be more effectively harnessed to address poverty and inequality.

Linking Universities and Marginalised Communities examines how South African universities engage with the informal sector in marginalised communities to improve livelihoods through inclusive innovation. The knowledge imperatives of universities are explored in relation to the public good and social justice, and the roles of innovation and technology transfer. Case studies provide examples of coherence between teaching, research, innovation and community engagement, and illustrate the enablers and constraints to such interaction. These insights find policy application in the spheres of higher education, science and technology, and economic development. The analysis also provides lessons for innovation studies, pointing out the need to refine the notion of innovation so that it may be more appropriate for the developmental challenges of countries such as South Africa.

The authors

Glenda Kruss is a director in the Education and Skills Development programme at the Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa. Her research focuses on higher education, innovation and development, exploring responsiveness to economic and social need, and skills development. She has collaborated on comparative projects in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe, and led large-scale projects for national government.

Michael Gastrow is a senior research specialist in the Education and Skills Development programme at the Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa. His research focus is on innovation systems, skills development, and the public understanding of science.