The Directorate of Community Outreach and Business Incubation (DCOBI) is one of the key establishments within the University to prosecute its mandate of providing applied research and practical oriented education in the area of business, development studies, and cognate disciplines. As the name suggests, DCOBI has two components: the community outreach component and the business incubation component.
Under the community outreach component, the Directorate manages all community outreach and practical training of students. It also promotes the University research and policy advocacy agenda through the generation and storage of relevant data from community outreach and practical training activities for use by university staff, students and external development partners. The University runs a Trimester System, with the Third Trimester mainly devoted to community outreach and practical training activities. The Practical Training Programme (PTP) is a flagship programme under the community outreach component run by the Directorate. During the Third Trimester, students at all levels undergo practical training programmes on-campus and/or in rural or peri-urban communities in Ghana.
The first-year students PTP is based on a campus-based integrated PTP model. In this model, students are put into integrated groups to undertake various field activities on-campus under the supervision of assigned Group Coordinators during the Third Trimester. The activities include reviewing existing community profiles, development and experimentation with participatory research methods and tools, field data collection, data analysis and presentation of written and oral reports for assessment. The focus is development problems and potentials of rural and peri-urban areas in Ghana, including business potentials. The second-year PTP is based on a community-based integrated PTP model. Students are sent to rural/peri-urban communities during the Third Trimester where they identify the problems and potentials of the communities and write a proposal based on a selected problem or potential. The expected output is a written proposal, which is also presented orally for assessment. The third-year PTP is designed to be School/Faculty/Department-based. Each Faculty/School/Department designs and runs a PTP in line with the training requirements for their programmes and the needs of their students. In the Fourth year, students complete their long essays during the Third Trimester, which is part of the requirement for the award of degrees in the University.
Around the world, there is a new orientation for universities to become centres of entrepreneurial ecosystems and the University has positioned itself in this new orientation. Under the business incubation component, the Directorate facilitates the incubation of new business ideas of students, lecturers and researchers as well as other stakeholders within and outside the University environment to stimulate entrepreneurship and economic development. The primary focus is on nurturing and developing promising business ideas that can lead to a possible start-up and also providing support to start-ups that require mentoring.
There is a nexus between the community outreach component and the business incubation component of the Directorate. Rural/peri-urban communities have problems and potentials that can serve as business opportunities. Thus, the identification of problems and potentials in the rural or peri-urban communities can form the basis for business ideation. These ideas can be pursued by community members, students and lecturers subsequently. Hence, the community outreach programmes are an integral part of the business incubation drive.