Historical overview

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, panel (round table) discussions organized by various bodies for the benefit of communities.

As witnessed by the President of the University (2009), in terms of diversification and enrichment, SMU’s community/ service has shown a significant growth in the last decade.

Our 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. The partnership schemes we have with local schools, business and industry are augmenting. Our link with international agencies and foreign institutions is also growing.

Moreover, while celebrating its 10th year anniversary, the University through its relevant organ, CEIRQA has begun proactively looking and bidding for consultancy jobs being announced by service seeking organizations or institutions dealing with social problems and services in the country. Accordingly, for the first time in its history, in 2009, SMU has been contracted as a consultant to design and implement two big research projects initiated for the purpose of addressing problems in the health and information sectors of Ethiopia. The delivery of these projects benefited not only the project owners/sponsors: ORBIS International Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Information and Communication Technology Development Agency, and the Ethiopian Information, Library and Archives Professionals Association but also the communities they are serving in the country.

Before the aforementioned two big research projects the University has had the experience of designing and delivering other consultancy services (short term on-the-job management training) through its Management Development Center of the Business Faculty reactively. To date, the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, National Tour Organization (NTO), Ethiopian Roads Authority, Akaki Spare Parts and Hand Tools Factory, Tikuret Lehiwot and Ledeta Sub-city Administration have benefited from this consultancy service.

SMU’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (which was established in 2008) has also been engaged in designing outreach projects to be implemented in partnership with external stakeholders (funding agencies). Not only this but by forming various taskforces the University has the experience of designing and implementing development projects in partnership with stakeholders in and outside Ethiopia. In this regard, the student exchange program it has had with Amsterdam Business School on the Ethiopian Coffee Branding Project which has been initiated and implemented with Meleya Foundation of the Netherlands, and the Intent Program which was implemented with the assistance of Meleya; and the Supplementary Materials Development Project it had with St. Mark & St. John University in the UK under the England-Africa Partnership Program can be cited as example.

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, and design 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.