UJ’s Centre for Social Development in Africa recognised at HSRC/USAf CEOs’ Awards

The Centre for Social Development in Africa from the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), was selected as a finalist for the team award at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and and Universities South Africa (USAf)  ceremony held on Thursday, 13 April 2023, at Maslow Time Square in Menlyn, Pretoria,

This was in recognition for the Communities of Practice for Child Wellbeing (CoP) intervention research study led by Prof Leila Patel.

The HSRC and USAf annually award and acknowledge scholars who have made an outstanding contribution to the social sciences and humanities through their research. The 2022/23 HSRC/USAf CEOs’ Awards aim is to recognise research excellence under the “Social Justice” theme, which seeks to identify innovative research projects that are centred on analysing social justice inquiry, theories and practice aimed at achieving transformative impact in communities – socially, scientifically and otherwise.

The awards recognise scholars and researchers who approach social justice issues using sharpened analytical lenses, rigorous conceptualisation, and research methods characterised by meaningful engagement with their peers and the affected communities.

Tania Sani, the Project Manager for the CoP and Sihleng’imizi, expressed the team’s gratitude for being selected as finalists in the HSRC USAF awards. She noted that the social justice theme of this year’s awards aligns with the CoP’s objective of finding local-level solutions that involve multiple disciplines and sectors to enhance the well-being of children, families, schools, and communities.

Prof Leila Patel, pictured with all the 2022–2023 HSRC-USAf Award winners / Photo credit: Adziliwi Nematandani, External Communications Manager, HSRC

CoP tackles systemic barriers

The CoP is a collaborative project that aims to improve child well-being for beneficiaries of the Child Support Grant in Johannesburg. It uses a digital Child Wellbeing Tracking Tool to assess well-being across six domains and brings together various professionals to develop intervention plans for at-risk children and their families. The project recognises the importance of targeting not just the individual child but also their families, schools, and communities. The project is unique in its holistic approach and prioritises social justice and reducing inequality.

CoP team crosses disciplinary and sectoral boundaries

The NRF-supported CoP team is focused on improving child well-being and includes 13 researchers, 19 partner organisations, and 165 children and their families. The team is led by three UJ SARCHI Chairs and supported by collaborating research partners. The CoP includes government departments, NGOs, and six schools in Johannesburg. The intervention team is composed of social workers, teachers, nurses, and education psychologists who form a local level CoP at the six schools. The success of the CoP is attributed to the cooperation and support of the children and their families.

In addition to the team prize, Dr. Hannah Dawson, a former senior researcher at the Centre for Social Development in Africa, won the Emerging Researcher Award. The Department of Sociology’s Established Researcher Award winner, Prof. Aswin Desai, was also honoured by the University of Johannesburg’s Faculty of Humanities. The Department of Sociology’s Prof. Luke Sinwell was chosen as a finalist for the mid-career researcher category.

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