True sustainable community development can only be achieved if communities are full partners and drivers of development processes and not merely receivers or actors. A bottom-up approach should focus on achieving credible consultation processes and the strengthening of capacities in line with development aspirations to implement a project. Community consultation should be part of the design phase of an intervention by utilising existing social networks throughout the process. Activities should be selected to ensure that community members are active participants. The design should allow input from stakeholders with the focus on achieving sustainable development as the end goal − not mere community participation. A strategy like participatory action research allows for the inclusion of local stakeholders from developing to executing a project, including monitoring and evaluating processes.


The team

Dr Christi Niesing – Leader of the research area


Current research projects

Social Greenhouse™: Through experienced researchers and project managers within AUTHeR, the Social Greenhouse™ can enrich innovative solutions based on evidence-based practice. The Social Greenhouse™ presents five clusters of social innovations based on a rigorous methodology, presented by experienced researchers and project managers.

LIFEPLAN®: The LIFEPLAN® programme addresses poverty among the most vulnerable through human development and training in life skills in order to improve their wellbeing in terms of health, nutrition and choice. LIFEPLAN® is based on the interdependent relations from intrapersonal to interpersonal to household, communities and societies. Current research includes the development of a self-assessment toolkit to enable participants to track personal growth through the personal development journey.

WIN platformThe WIN platform is an umbrella project, with a strong emphasis on building inter-sectorial partnerships to holistically improve rural health and well-being. The project has grown in the past few years, with other faculties from the NWU joining the Health Sciences disciplines to empower and improve resource-poor communities through inter-sectoral partnerships, in which students received the opportunity to prepare for their professions through work-integrated learning and community beneficial workshops, training opportunities and interventions.


Study with us

When enrolling in our MHSc in Transdisciplinary Health Promotion or for a PhD in Transdisciplinary Health Science, you are able to set your research focus towards sustainable community development. We have a number of research topics to choose from or we support the realisation of your own ideas. 


Additional resources & -links (Click here)


For further information contact Dr Christi Niesing.