University to Communiversity – Integralising Knowledge for Southern Africa

Just as the world was getting to grips with the unfolding Corona virus reality, board members of Trans4m Communiversity Associates (TCA), came together for two significant symposia, respectively in Johannesburg (South Africa), Bvumba Mountain and Harare (Zimbabwe). The events kindly hosted by Trevor Huddleston Memorial Centre (THMC), Sophiatown, Johannesburg, sponsored by Providence Human capital (PHC) in collaboration with TCA. The purpose, of this coming together of kindred hearts and spirits along with some significant key members of South African and Zimbabwean community and organisations, was to explore new avenues and possibilities of integralising the future of education and knowledge in their local (African) context, particularly in the Southern Africa and, widely in African regions.

Background and Aims

In South Africa, which arguably possesses the best universities in the African continent, has recently been beset by the “Rhodes Must Fall” movement, whereby it was argued by students that the educational curriculum was alien to Africa. Not only that but the misfit between educational provision, on the one hand, and the creation of viable livelihoods, on the other, is enormous. As such grounds for self-sufficiency, educationally and economically, have not been laid, and neither have the kinds of social, as well as technological, innovation, emerged to realise such. That said, in the 1990’s and the first decade of the new millennium, initial foundations were laid by the Kellogg’s Foundation, CIDA and Trans4m, to promote communal learning and socio-economic transformation, in Southern Africa, as well as in Jordan in the MENA region, which are in need of regeneration, while at the same time, currently, Transform Communiversity Associates (TCA), based in the UK, has been co-evolving prospective Communiversities, in Nigeria in West Africa, in Jordan in the Middle East, and in the North of England within Europe.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean government has set out to transform the higher education system in 5.0 guise, so as to newly incorporate not only research, education and community engagement, as the traditional – albeit all too often ill served – functions of a university, but also now to incorporate industrialisation (including agriculture) and innovation, that is both social and technological innovation. Yet in our view universities as currently constituted, generally, if not also in Southern Africa, specifically, are unable to turn that 5.0 vision into a reality.

In fact, and in the light of the above, the Idea of the Communiversity as duly conceived of, and there being the need to now transform the idea, more purposefully, into a reality, these symposia were purposefully design to bring the key players of both neighbouring countries (South Africa & Zimbabwe) together. To that extent, and in combined Communiversity and 5.0 guise, the Communal learning on which we initially focus arises out of community Service; a transformational Journey for self, organisation and society is promoted through Education; a Research academy, rooted in local soils while reaching out to wider worlds conceives of a route to self-sufficiency; while industry duly building on agriculture, mediated by communications technology, is promoted through duly aligned Laboratories. All together are enhanced through social innovation.

Moreover, the Communiversity we are seeking to develop builds on, and serves to evolve, so called traditional “age-sets”, in rural villages hitherto, so that stages of life through childhood, youth, adulthood and elder-hood, were linked with corresponding phases of productive activity, so that unemployment, as a phenomenon, was unknown. In other words, community service was inculcated in children, education in youth, industriousness in adulthood, research and reflection in adulthood, albeit that concerted innovation, technologically if not also socially, is more of a contemporary phenomenon. The overall aim of this convention, was to purposefully co-evolve the initial Communiversity blueprints, and indeed case studies, that we have been formulating in Zimbabwe and South Africa, duly informed by TCA related developments in other parts of the world.

Towards a South African Communiversity

Regenerative Stewardship for Social Transformation

Trevor Huddleston Cr Memorial Centre

Some current and former alumni members of Trans4m’s post-doc community came together for a two-days symposium hosted by Fr Trevor Huddleston Memorial Centre (THMC), Sophiatown, Johannesburg, to further the South African Communiversity agenda as an ongoing development supported by our post-doc community members from local institutes and organisations.

The group investigated the catalytical need to extend their support to local communities (e.g. Sophiatown), institutions (e.g. University of Johannesburg, Wits University et al) and organisations (e.g. THMC, Kellogg’s Foundation, Kairos School et al) and to build a cohesive eco-system able to contain a regenerative economic and educational transformation in Southern African regions. The discussion constituted a proposal for the establishment of a Southern African Communiversity Movement, within the network of similar Communiversity collaborations around the world in the United Kingdom, Jordan, Nigeria and Pakistan, in collaboration with the Transf4m Communiversity Associates (TCA), based on the general conceptualization of Integral Worlds Theory (Lessem & Schieffer, 2009), and The Idea of the Communiversity (Lessem, Adodo & Bradley 2019).

The fourfold Integral Worlds theory articulates an intrinsic and archetypal fourfold-ness of life — through a wide variety of ancient traditions as well as contemporary taxonomies within diverse fields such as economics, psychology, sociology, education and business. By utilising Lessem and Schieffers’ geographical visualisation, summarised as follows:

  1. SouthThe Community: is engaged in specifically articulated processes of communal, as well as individual, learning, invariably related to particular internal or external communities.
  2. EastThe Ibhuma : organisations instigating reflective, transformative or spiritual experiences.
  3. NorthThe Academy: organisations conducting research in and for the world.
  4. WestThe Laboratory: institutions that explore solutions for their local communities.

Moreover, the communiversity emphasises a “culture-centric” consciousness, in that participants are conscious of differences in cultural mindsets of both staff and students, or what we prefer to call “co-creators”. It was in this context the question of leveraging creative economy for societal transformation, was collectively pondered over by the group. The proposition of formalising a degree (Master’s in Transformation Studies) program to enable members of creative community towards self-sufficiency, coming from the senior management of THMC, was duly acknowledged by Brett Pyper, an Associate Professor and Head of the Wits School of Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, also present at the convention.

THMC have already been supporting community training and youth development programs in arts, culture, and heritage for 19 years, primarily in the City Metro of Johannesburg and Soweto, Sophiatown and surrounding areas. Primarily, focusing on young people across the Province, both locally in Sophiatown and across the communities affected by the historically forced removals. A group of young artists performed at this occasion to welcome the worthy members of symposia.

Read the Communiversity concept paper presented at the symposium by our colleague Marc Loon, co-founder and principal of Kairos School of Inquiry, also a Trans4m Masters graduate and a senior member of Mankind Project South Africa.

Integral Zimbabwe Retreat Bvumba Mountain

Manicaland State University of Applied Sciences (MSUAS)

The next destination for the group was to reconvene in the serene Bvumba mountains, Zimbabwe. The Vumba retreat, masterminded by Trans4m Communiversity Associates (TCA) in collaboration with Providence Human Capital (PHC), was a one of its kind retreats for the group to be part of a new initiative birthing a regenerative process of holistic education and integral enterprise in Zimbabwe.

The Vumba Retreat, as indicated above, initiated a parallel process, coming out of an ongoing, unfolding, co-evolving process that began over a decade ago with Trans4m, BTD and Da Vinci, and thereafter Pundutso in Zimbabwe, mediated through Trans4m’s PhD in Integral Development.


Most rural communities in Zimbabwe are characterised by abject poverty and are marginalised yet the majority of Zimbabweans live in these areas. It is therefore paramount that an effective social innovation and transformation agenda be implemented in order to capacitate the rural people to enhance their own livelihoods and to participate in the socio-economic transformation of the nation. It was in this context the Pundutso Research Academy (Pundutso meaning (Transformation) was launched in October 2019, in Harare, Zimbabwe, with the CEO of Econet, Douglas Mbowene, the country’s largest company, as the guest of honour. His primary focus was on the 5 C’s of Re-GENE-ration; that is regenerating Nature and Community, Culture and Spirituality, Eenergy and Communications, Capital and Value, as well as the all-round Constitution of the university (communiversity). 

It was, thus, envisaged that this regenerating process will contribute in building a robust and unique nhaka for the entire Zimbabwean society thereby creating a nhaka economy – nhakanomics with its primacy on self-sufficient economy! The nhakanomics approach is emerging as the viable alternative to the neo-liberal economic approach which is from the West and North, and is anchored on individual capitalist philosophy which is alien to the Zimbabwean culture and tradition. The Nhakanomics approach is substantially underpinned by anthropology and economics including
management and business studies (Lessem, Mawere, & Taranhike, 2019). Therefore, Nhakanomics is based on legacy – nhaka and integrality (by following the GENE cycle). As part of the transformation process, the concept of the communiversity is applied in order to buttress the regeneration of Kumusha and the national economy through Integral Enterprise e.g. Providence Human Capital (PHC) as a living model of such integrality in Zimbabwe.

Foreground: PhD to phd, ID, R and D, PHD

While that process is still ongoing, another such integral and trans4mational process has now emerged through Trans4m Communiversity Associates (TCA), worlds-wide (most specifically in Southern Africa, Nigeria, Jordan, Pakistan and the UK), co-evolving with a prospective TCA/Zimbabwean Communiversity, actively pursued by PHC in close alliance with Manicaland State University of Applied Sciences (MSUAS), Pundutso and Vakamusha.

As such the Zimbabwean Communiversity process was unfolded at the Vumba retreat with all the above mentioned key players actively now involved in launching a Master’s in Transformation Studies in Africa (TSA) with MSUAS.

This was mutually and reciprocally illustrated by board members of TCA, e.g. Father Anselm Adodo TCA (Nigeria), Aneeqa Malik Managing Partner TCA UK), Prof Samayanga Ronnie Lessem (Research Director TCA UK) and by our prospective graduates in Zimbabwe, Chipo Nduzo/PHC, and Daud/Shumba/Vakamusha. The retreat was hosted by Chaka Isheunesu, Executive Dean of Students MSUAS, also present at the retreat were management team from Providence Human Capital (PHC), Chairperson for Social Sciences Department in the Faculty of Social and Gender Transformative Sciences.


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