AUN USR&S promotes Community University partnership in driving Innovative sustainability amidst the pandemic and beyond in the 5th AsiaEngage Regional Conference

By Wafaa Wajihah Mohammad Rosmadini, AUN Intern

Taking after the victory of the primary four conferences and the benefits that it brings to the university-community-industry engagement professionals in Asia and past, the AUN USR&S Secretariat at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) has composed the 5th AsiaEngage Territorial Conference on the 18th November 2020. The theme of the conference was “How Community Engagement Can Drive Imaginative Maintainability within the 4IR Era?”. However, due to the COVID-19 widespread, the occasion had to be held essentially through Zoom. This fifth edition of the AsiaEngage Regional Conference was merged under the University for Society International Conference (U4SIC) together three major international conferences co-hosted by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Universiti Malaya and Universiti Sains Malaysia on the research area of community engagement resulting with a 3-in-1 online event comprising of:

1. The 5th AsiaEngage Regional Conference
2. The 4th Asia-Pacific University-Community Engagement Network (APUCEN) Summit
3. The UM Academia-Community Engagement (UMACE) Conference

All three of the events were held simultaneously but in designated breakout rooms. The U4SIC conference was attended by more than 150 participants and received 59 submissions with 22 oral papers and 37 posters to be presented and evaluated.

The virtual 3-in-1 event started with an opening ceremony that was officiated by Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri Dato' Seri Panglima Dr Lee Lam Thye, a Malaysian politician and social activist of the Democratic Action Party (DAP). For the AsiaEngage Regional Conference, participants consisting of PhD students shared their innovative ideas and capacity development to create impactful community engagement in forms of an infographic poster or oral paper presentation on one of the respective sub-themes:

1) University for community engagement
2) University for Industry engagement
3) University for civil society engagement
4) University for government engagement

The AsiaEngage Regional conference was designated into 2 breakout rooms with the respective sub-themes:

  • Room 1: University for community engagement
  • Room 2: University for Industry engagement, civil society engagement and government engagement

After every presentation, there is a Q&A session for evaluators and participants to further inspect the quality of each oral paper and poster.

The afternoon session then continued with multiple breakout sessions, designated into four rooms with each room having two sessions each. Each breakout session had an average of 20-60 attendees. The themes for the breakout rooms covered various topics related to community engagement and industry development.

As for the APUCEN summit, the theme for this year's 4th summit is focusing on Sustainable community engagement partnership. The summit is a platform where invited speakers from the EU as well as other stakeholders within ASEAN to deliver keynote sessions as well as showcase their recent projects on pursuing their respective SDG missions through enhancing community engagement. The keynote session highlighted some crucial aspects of Youth volunteerism and the importance of acquiring IT skills. Some of the SDG missions showcased were the ‘BLOOM project’ which is a European hub for blended and online learning, networking and mobility as well as the ‘Big Picnic’, a three-year project that brings together the public, scientists, policy-makers and industry to help tackle the global challenge of food security.

Another mission is the ‘InSPIRES project’ that co-designs, jointly pilots, implements and rolls out innovative models for Science Shops which is funded by the EU. ‘Terrifica’ was also showcased as a project that set up tailored roadmaps and key performance indicators for the implementation of the developed methodologies and climate change adaptation and mitigation activities in regional practice. The keynote speakers consist of Ms Maria Schrammel of University of Natural resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Ms Helen Miller from the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), Ms Anne-Sophie Gresle from ISGlobal, Pawel Churski from Faculty of Human Geography and Planning, University Poznan and Joanna Morawska-Jancelewicz, Science shop coordinator of Terrifica respectively. One key takeaway made by Norbert Steinhaus of WILA-Wissenschaftsladen Bonn Science shop who also moderated the session is that the community needs to “Unlearn, Relearn & Co-learn”

The other event under the U4SIC conference was the UM Engagement (UMACE) Conference which was delivered by a representative from Pusat Komuniti & Kelestarian UMcares with the theme 'Sustaining Community Engagement during the Pandemic'. It encompassed dialogues on the impacts of covid-19 in different sectors of the community and how to make proper adjustments in the new normal. This conference acts as a platform that enables researchers and organizations to share valuable information and experience to improve the quality of future community projects by exchanging insights via oral and poster presentations. Some of the key topics highlighted were on savings & financial sustainability, challenges faced by SMEs during the pandemic as well as the importance of effective and sustainable ways to address these issues.

Bloom Project: https://www.openu-project.eu/bloom

InSPIRES project: https://inspiresproject.com/about-inspires/

Big Picnic: https://www.bgci.org/our-work/projects-and-case-studies/bigpicnic/

Terrifica: https://terrifica.eu/

By the end of the 3-in-1 U4SIC conference, the winners for the following categories were announced:

1) Top 3 best poster
2) Top 3 best oral paper
3) Recipient AsiaEngage Recognition Award 2020

Category Winners University Poster/paper title
Top 3 poster 1st: Associate Prof Doris Patmini Selvaratnam Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Solar-powered street lights for the indigenous people
2nd:Dr Siti Aminah Hj Osman Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia MOU and MOA activities in UKM: Memorandum Monitoring system (MMS) Development
3rd: Dr Mohd Afifuddin Mohammad Nizam University Malaya Sustainability in Prosthetic materials usage for the improvement of quality of life
Top 3 Oral paper 1st: Dr Kuan Wai Loh Nanyang Technological University Singapore Industry partnership as cornerstone of the NTU peak leadership
2nd: Dr Wong Zheng Yu University Malaya Design and development of Augmented reality learning module for knowledge transfer program in the 4th industrial revolution era
3rd: Dr Chai Ang Wei Lun Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Design and development of Augmented reality learning module for knowledge transfer programming 4th industrial revolution era

The Recipient AsiaEngage Award is a well-known prestigious award that recognises and honours leaders of ASEAN and Asia who have made outstanding contributions towards distinguished excellence in University Social Responsibility and Sustainability in every two years. Associate Prof Dr Avorn Opatanakit from Chiang Mai University received the award for dedicating the past ten years of her career in facilitating the institutionalisation of societal engagement at Chiang Mai University and throughout Thailand. Associate Prof Avorn expressed her profound gratitude for being granted the honour to receive the high distinction. She congratulated and commended the AsiaEngage team, in particular, the team from the three organising universities for facilitating the University Social responsibility and sustainability. Dr Avorn highlighted the significance of the award as it promotes the inspiring achievement of extraordinary leaders in innovative and impactful engagement, practices and the collaborative industry or community-based research as well as inspiring youth volunteerism.

The whole-day event was concluded with a closing ceremony with a delivery of a closing speech by Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the Industry, Alumni & Community Partnerships, UKM, Prof. Dato’ Dr Imran Ho Abdullah. He reinstated the recognition of three honourable panelists for Associate Professor Dr Amer Siddiq Amer Nordin Director of UMCares, Professor Dato’ Dr Ai Ling Tan, chairman of APUCEN in Malaysia and Professor Dato Dr Rokiaah Umar, Chairperson of AsiaEngage. Dr Imran expressed his gratitude for the efforts made by these three distinguished chairmen for pulling out their resources to make the comprehensive 3-in-1 event possible. He further believed in the value of working and bringing people together to foster an extensive sharing community. He commended the technical teams of the University Community Transformation Centre (UCTC) Secretariat in UKM for their hard work and dedication as well as all the keynote speakers, paper presenters including the participants in order to make the virtual event a success.