RCE Greater Gombak - 2023

Driving the Transformation towards Communiversity through Usrah in Action
Basic Information
Title of project : 
Driving the Transformation towards Communiversity through Usrah in Action
Contributing organization(s) : 
International Islamic University Malaysia
Mercy Mission Malaysia
Malaysian Institute of Sustainable Agriculture (MISA)
Focal point(s) and affiliation(s)
Wan Zahidah Wan Zulkifle
Organizational Affiliation: 
International Islamic University Malaysia
Language of project: 
Date of submission:
Wednesday, July 12, 2023
Geographical & Education Information
Peninsular Malaysia
Address of focal point institution for project: 
International Islamic University Malaysia
Jalan Gombak,
53100 Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
Socioeconomic and environmental characteristics of the area : 
The International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) is a public higher education institution nestled in a valley in the rustic district of Gombak, which is a sub-urban area. There are a total of 26139 students; and 5316 staff including 1933 academic, 1685 administrators and 1698 Medical Centre staff. Headquartered in Gombak, Selangor, IIUM has five other campuses all over Malaysia: two medical-centric campuses and a Centre for Foundation Studies in Gambang, Pahang, two city campuses in Kuala Lumpur, and a language & tourism campus in Pagoh, Johor. Each campus of IIUM is surrounded by residential and industrial areas which display various sustainable development issues from economic, social and environment perspective.
Description of sustainable development challenge(s) in the area the project addresses: 
Being a suburban area, sustainable development challenges faced by the community are diverse from economic, social and environmental aspect. The communities need all possible support from the university to address the challenges especially to instil Sustainable Development awareness and possible specific projects for identified issues. With more than 3500 students registered for the course every year, hopefully they will be able to work with communities in overcoming the challenges. Specifically, one major cross cutting challenge to be addressed is the need for attitudinal change and related skills. Thus the courses are structured as a continuous two semesters program with the community.
February, 2022 to December, 2023
Moving away from the ivory tower concept of a university, International Islamic University Malaysia is focused on its journey to bring back the role of university for the community. Instead of being trapped in the ranking game where universities role and contribution to the community are marginalised, the focus is shifted to the real impact of working on the ground Although community engagement has been part and parcel of the University for decades, 2018 has witnessed the amplification of the effort towards mainstreaming this ‘communiversity’ concept and ensuring that the Whole-Institution Transformation that was happening inside the University spilled over to the surrounding communities leading towards Whole-Community Transformation. The focus of the university now is to produce a balanced graduates and staff who displays the characteristics of “Insan Sejahtera”- one whose cognitive, physio-psychological, intellectual, and spiritual dimensions are in harmony with each other, and this harmony of the inner self in turn enables the person to function well with his/her surroundings - the ecological, economical, cultural and societal elements thus enhancing the person’s awareness of his/her relationship with Allah.
Universities should be the leveller and agents of change to address the issue of sustainable development in society. However, with universities commonly described as being ivory towers, these roles are becoming obscure in the pursuit of ranking, further pushing them towards publication and focusing on research that often ignore real societal problems.

With increasing complexity of societal problems, IIUM decided to embark on a disruptive approach to address sustainable development by mobilising students to engage with the community every semester to identify what are the sustainable development problems that can be addressed or mitigated. This is implemented through Usrah in Action courses, which is a university-required course and made compulsory for all undergraduate students.
Activities and/or practices employed: 
Usrah in Action is the manifestation of how IIUM integrates community engagement initiatives of the university into the formal curriculum, serving as a platform for experiential learning for the students. Prior to Usrah in Action, students must enrol in an introductory course on sustainability. This course aims to build a foundation for students to understand the concept and principles of sustainable development and issues related to sustainability. The two subsequent courses are designed to translate the concept and principles of sustainability into actions on the ground. Usrah in Action 1 requires students to perform community profiling and issue mapping of the target community. They are expected to propose a solution i.e. a sustainable community project based on the profiling and mapping to be carried out in Usrah in Action 2.
Size of academic audience: 
In three semesters of its implementation, we could see significant results on the ground. Up until today, we managed to showcase 217 community engagement projects involving 5258 students and 230 voluntary instructors, reaching the heart of thousands of local communities. Students will present their work for the whole semester in a one-day Symposium which will be held at the last week of each semester. These projects address environment, economic and social issues which include various target communities such as the indigenous, marginalised, single mothers, youth, refugees, school students, and so many more. The presentation was evaluated by juries from academia, industry, NGOs, banks, community leaders and foundations. It is also attended by the whole IIUM community and public audience.

Although this course is still new, various positive and encouraging comments and feedback received from the students. Most of the students stated that the experience of having to do profiling and getting to know the community is humbling and eye-opening to them, as they were never exposed of the reality on the ground before. This is prominent especially for the students who chose underprivileged community as their community of interest. Apart from that, the students also shared that the course had assist them in developing their communication and soft skills especially when they have to work together in a group of students from different background, and when they engaged with the community.

Lessons learned: 
While the initial aim of Usrah in Action is to provide an experiential learning platform for students to engage the community as part of their audit graduation and student development, the impact has amplified to real empowerment and transformation of the target communities approached. The spirit of co-learning and co-creating is embedded in each project, moving away from the traditional one-off community services that had been conducted for years. The profiling and mapping obtained as an outcome from the course has helped the institution to build a database of the community nearby.

With all the projects on the ground in place, this has contributed to the changing impression on roles of universities by the community members where they are not seen as just learning places but also an active community members. The showcases of the projects and their impact has successfully attracted a number of organisations and philanthropists to support and work together for the same cause. Usrah in Action has also contributed to the identification of complex nature of equities and diversities that need to be recognised and addressed inter and intra community members.
Key messages: 
International Islamic University Malaysia is committed in its effort of bringing back the role of universities as agents of change in addressing issues of sustainable development. In the realisation of this aspiration, the university has introduced a new compulsory course Usrah in Action (UIA), requires the students to immerse in the community through profiling and situational analysis and subsequently implement a need-based solution project to address the issues faced by the community. Throughout two years of its implementation, we managed to showcase 217 community engagement projects on the ground, involving 5258 students and 230 voluntary instructors, reaching the heart of local communities.
Relationship to other RCE activities: 
The project started with zero funding. The instructors were recruited on a voluntary basis. It was towards the end of the first semester of its commencement that we received USD 4,500 from Jamalullail Chair and USD 6,000 from the University. We continue to pitch this idea to external foundations and banks to fund the implementation of the projects registered under Usrah in Action.


File Name Caption for picture Photo Credit
Image icon Usrah in Action Sysmposium.jpg (240.16 KB) University in Action Symposium, Gombak Brodeen
UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
(https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs) and other themes of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)
SDG 1 - End poverty in all its forms everywhere 
SDG 2 - End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture 
SDG 3 - Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages 
SDG 4 - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all 
SDG 5 - Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls 
SDG 6 - Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all 
SDG 7 - Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all 
SDG 8 - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all 
SDG 9 - Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation, and foster innovation 
SDG 10 - Reduce inequality within and among countries 
SDG 11 - Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable 
SDG 12 - Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns 
SDG 13 - Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts 
SDG 14 - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development 
SDG 15 - Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss 
SDG 16 - Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels 
SDG 17 - Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development 
Curriculum Development 
ESD for 2030-Priority Action Areas
Priority Action Area 2 - Transforming learning and training environments 
I acknowledge the above: