UTech, Jamaica and Agency for InnerCity Renewal (AIR) Forge Partnership for Community Transformation

Dr. Henley Morgan (left) Executive Chairman, Agency for InnerCity Renewal (AIR) and Professor Colin Gyles, Deputy President, University of Technology, Jamaica display a copy of the signed Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two institutions on Wednesday, December 18, 2019 at the University’s Papine Campus

The University of Technology, Jamaica and the Agency for InnerCity Renewal (AIR) yesterday (December 18, 2019)  forged a strategic partnership to spawn transformation, development and wealth creation in communities, through the delivery of short courses focusing on social entrepreneurship and social innovation.

The partnership will also involve research concerning community transformation and models for their development, as well as public education activities to advance public understanding of matters relevant to the challenges and opportunities for transformation of Jamaica’s marginalized and underserved InnerCity communities.  The partnership between the two entities was formalised with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at a ceremony at the University’s Papine Campus. The MoU was signed by Professor Colin Gyles, Deputy President, UTech, Jamaica and Dr. Henley Morgan, Executive Chairman, AIR which operates multiple social enterprises from its base in the iconic birthplace of reggae, Trench Town.The Deputy President explained that “the partnership will enable the delivery of short courses to facilitate vocational literacy and skills development within communities, as a tool for community transformation and wealth creation,” adding that “this will be achieved by combining and leveraging the strengths of both of our organizations.”  

Speaking to the development of these courses for which the MoU now paves the way, Professor Gyles noted that “The UTech Academy in partnership with the Office of Distance learning (ODL) and Community Service Department (CSD) at the University are combining their efforts and expertise for the delivery of these short courses within communities.”  He expressed congratulations and thanks to all the persons from these departments and other areas within the University who will be involved in ensuring the success of this human capital building initiative. Professor Gyles also noted the longstanding, productive partnership between UTech, Jamaica and AIR.  “Over the years, Dr. Morgan has welcomed several groups of UTech, Jamaica Entrepreneurship students from the Joan Duncan School of Entrepreneurship, Ethics and Leadership (JDSEEL).  The students’ experience has been part of their study tour for their Module in Social Enterprise. These students have been led by Dr. Horace Williams and Dr. Andrea Barrett.  Under the terms of this new MoU, these arrangements will continue in a more structured way.  Students from across the University will also be able to serve their mandatory community service hours in Trench Town through arrangements with AIR,” he said.  Through the initiative, graduate students will also have the opportunity to undertake research in Trench Town on matters surrounding community development and transformation.

Underscoring that strategic partnership between the important players in the social services and allied sectors is a key success factor for development, Dr. Morgan noted that “the quadruple-helix approach to community development and transformation, which combines the human, physical, technological and financial resources of academia, non-government organizations, government and the private sector, will be a major feature of the UTech-AIR initiative.” Pointing out that there is global consensus that the old paradigms of community development have failed, Dr. Morgan reasoned that “if you take Jamaica as an example and look at how much money has been spent on community development since our Independence, there is not one person in this room who would not say that the problems are worse, even more entrenched than when we began.”  

In contrast, he noted that social entrepreneurship has emerged globally as a key strategy and approach toward community transformation and wealth creation in line with commitments such as the SDGS and Vision 2030 Jamaica.  “The problems that face countries like Jamaica…where the distribution of wealth is so skewed, the main commodity with which you can turn around the situation is not donor funds thrown at the problem, it’s not nice talk from political platforms, it’s not even in the macroeconomic plans; the main commodity is knowledge,” he asserted, adding that “academia has to be the fulcrum and the hub out of which radiates knowledge” and how to deal with issues like youths sitting on the corner in Trench Town declaring that “nutten naw gwan.”

Also offering congratulations and endorsements at the ceremony were Ambassador Byron Blake, former Assistant Secretary General, CARICOM Secretariat and Mr Clifford Spencer, Director, Projects and Programmes, MSME Division in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF).  Mr Spencer noted that the Ministry has recognized the important role of the social enterprise sector in social value creation and social cohesion, and welcomes the UTech, Jamaica/AIR partnership along with all other proactive and forward thinking approaches to develop the sector.  As part of its commitment to the development of social enterprise in Jamaica, Spencer said that “we have ensured the sector is included in the Government Policy framework,”  noting that among other things, a chapter on Social Value Created through Business Models has been included in the updated 2018 MSME and Entrepreneurship Policy. The ceremony was chaired by Dr. Paul Ivey, Associate Vice President, Graduate Studies, Research and Entrepreneurship, UTech, Jamaica who noted that the genesis of the newly signed MoU between UTech, Jamaica and AIR stemmed from Dr. Morgan’s delivery of a Distinguished Lecture in November 2018 as part of the University’s 60th Anniversary celebrations.   Dr. Morgan subsequently followed up with University President, Professor Stephen Vasciannie to explore areas of possible collaboration, which the President subsequently asked Dr. Ivey to lead.

Dr. Ivey noted that the core UTech, Jamaica working group including  Prof. Colin Gyles, Dr. Jeanette Bartley-Bryan (ODL), Ms. Novelette Cooke (COBAM/JDSEEL), Dr. Andrea Barrett (COBAM/JDSEEL), and Mr. Paulton Gordon (Community Service), together with Dr. Morgan and representatives of AIR, will now proceed to leverage resources to undertake the collaborative initiatives as prescribed by the MoU.

Sharing a group photo following the MOU signing ceremony (from left) are Ms Novlette Cooke, Lecturer, JDSEEL, Mr Calvin Hunter, AIR,  Dr. Jeanette Bartley-Bryan, AVP, Open and Distance Learning, UTech, Jamaica, Ambassador Byron Blake, former Assistant Secretary General, CARICOM Secretariat, Dr. Henley Morgan, Executive Chairman, AIR,  Professor Colin Gyles, Deputy President, UTech, Jamaica, Dr. Paul Ivey,  Associate Vice President, Graduate Studies, Research and Entrepreneurship, UTech, Jamaica, Dr. Andrea Barrett, Senior Lecturer, JDSEEL, Mr Paulton Gordon, Director, Community Service and Development, UTech, Jamaica and Mr Clifford Spencer, Director, Projects and Programmes, MSME Division in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF). 


Michelle Beckford (Mrs.)
Corporate Communications Manager
University of Technology, Jamaica
Telephone: 970-5299
Email: mbeckford@utech.edu.jm