In one form or another, St. Mary’s University (SMU) has been delivering community/ outreach services through its formal and informal institutional organs evolved at different times in its history. Some of the services are as old as the University itself; creating learning and development opportunities for the needy (individuals and organizations) through scholarships and sponsoring/ funding important events or activities initiated by communities and/or their members, for example. Requests for such services have been processed by the then External Relations Office of the University. In addition to processing requests, this Office has also been active in taking part in talk shows, and panel (round table) discussions organized by various bodies for the benefit of communities.
The Universities community involvements have also diversified and grown in strength. Free scholarships to the needy, assistance to the poor and destitute through the Student Affairs & Services Office and the Student Union, are now supplemented with the activities of the Social Support Forum of SMU. On the basis of its five year strategic plan, taking into account the need for addressing social problems and services with enhanced organizational and managerial capacity, in 2010, SMU set up the Office of Community/ Outreach Services at directorate level with the following responsibilities: (1) formulating and putting in place appropriate policies and plans at strategic, tactical and operational levels (with the necessary guidelines and manuals); (2) promoting the need for increased community service in and outside the University; (3) building the capacity of community members through on-the-job, and credit and non-credit based entrepreneurial, managerial, teacher education and other short-term trainings; (4) proactively looking for consultancy job opportunities and deliver the required service (when offered the job) by using capable internal and/or external consultants; (5) undertaking applied research; design projects and implement intervention programs in partnership with other stakeholders; (6) facilitating and strengthening University-industry/ business linkage/ interaction and engagement for mutually beneficial results; (7) managing and supporting events meant for engagement with wider community groups so as to effect social change; (8) handling and supporting the delivery of community support services; (9) building mutually beneficial relationships with stakeholders; (10) fundraising through project partnership, sponsorship and fee-based consultancy services, and (11) community grant/ fund administration.
The Vision, Mission, Goal and Core Values of Community/ Outreach Services
Vision: To become a centre of academic excellence in community service provision in the higher education arena of Africa.
Mission: To create learning, information and networking opportunities for community members (people) and address their social problems through collaborative effort, and render problem-solving consultancy service to the needy organizations or institutions with reasonable price so as to contribute to socio-economic development of the country.
Goal: Meeting and exceeding the expectations of stakeholders in the provision of community services, and nurturing sustained and mutually beneficial relationship with them.
Core Values: Relevance, openness, community-centeredness and responsiveness, accessibility, consultative, participatory, and mutually beneficial relationship/ partnership are the core values that we need to ensure in the development and provision of community/ outreach services.
To date, the Community/ Outreach Services Office has managed to deliver the following research projects addressing social problems and services in Ethiopia successfully.