Faculty of Economics stepping ahead with the U2T Project, from University to Sub-district, with an aim to strengthen the country’s taproots

People, U2T – March 3, 2021 / Faculty of Economics of Khon Kaen University / Mr. Narut Angwarawong, Director of the Participatory Pilot Project for Enterprise Growth / Prof. Dr. Kalaphruek Phewthongngam, Dean of Faculty of Economics / U2T Project, from University to Sub-district

The spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) has brought problems to the country’s economy, with many people including newly graduates being unemployed. A lot of university students have been affected. Many unemployed people have to move back to their hometown. These, in turn, cause social problems. The national socio-economic restoring policy is thus emphasizing economic revival at the community level, through job building and occupational development so that the people can rely on themselves according to the sufficiency economy philosophy. The government is therefore seeking support from the over 80 public universities in all regions to act as the System Integrator that integrates socio-economic revival process systematically (Area Based System Integrator) at the sub-district level. This is carried out through utilization of existing bodies of knowledge, technologies and innovations and through coordination and cooperation with the provinces, local administrative organizations and other relevant organizations so that the integration of work will upgrade the sub-district socio-economic conditions, leading to clarified goal of poverty mitigation.

Khon Kaen University under the lead of Assoc. Prof. Charnchai Panthongviriyakul, M.D., the President is one of the leading universities that possesses resources, bodies of knowledge, technologies, aptitudes, and expertise in each discipline. The university therefore volunteers to conduct social assisting projects, which are divided into the emergency project under the crisis of Covid 19 and the one-year project or the University to Sub-district (U2T), in which KKU is taking responsibility over 135 sub-districts and 200 sub-district networks through the implementation of 16 faculties under the Innovation and Enterprise Section, namely, Faculty of Pharmaceutical Science, Faculty of Associated Medical Science, Faculty of Nursing, Faculty of Public Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Faculty of Agriculture, Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Technology, Faculty of Architecture, Faculty of Business Administration and Accountancy, Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts, College of Local Administration, Faculty of Interdisciplinary Sciences, Nongkhai Campus, International College, and Academic Service Bureau. The Faculty of Education and Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences are responsible for the program in the use of digital in the new normal age and the Department of Statistics, Faculty of Sciences is responsible for statistical evaluation.

Prof. Dr. Kalaphruek Phewthongngam, Dean of Faculty of Economics is leading the team that is working on the one-year project under the University to Sub-district or U2T with an aim to strengthen the country’s taproots. The project is now at the second phase with Mr. Narut Angwarawong, Director of the Participatory Pilot Project for Enterprise Growth, a former student of the Faculty taking responsibility in the project implementation with all his capacities.

Mr. Narut Angwarawong said, “The U2T project will upgrade the socio-economic conditions of the sub-district in an integrated style. This project was initiated by the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation, because of the spread of Covid-19. It involves job creation in order to lessen the impact from the situation. An amount of 800,000 baht was allocated to each sub-district, with 20 jobs offered via the University. Since the project is under the Ministry, the governors, district officers and relevant personnel all accept and see the importance of it. These authorities have assigned their officers to coordinate with the university. The communities are also well prepared for the changes that are happening, for the changes will bring incomes to the communities, with their people having jobs and the communities will be sustainably strengthened.”

Mr. Narut Angwarawong continued to say, “The project lasts only one year. There are 4 phases planned. The first phase is preparing the team through ‘Training’. Phase 2 is ‘Quick Win’ by an in-depth approach to each community so that the problems there can be recognized, with good expected outcomes. Phase 3 is called, ‘Group Resource’ or connection with the network. This last 6 months and is considered the most important, for the problem will be scrutinized and the network is approached to discuss which part of the area in the community should be developed. Here the former tool of the experts can be used in all communities. Phase 4 is Withdrawal from the communities. It is the last two months when the communities have been strengthened at a certain level. A structure will be formed in the enterprise, and the knowledge and working mechanism will be transferred to the community so that they can continue with income building, however, with the university still providing consultation. At present, the work has been carried out in 44 sub-districts and is under Phase 2.”

Prof. Dr. Kalaphruek Phewthongngam said, “U2T project of the Faculty of Economics began when Khun Wanat Taephaisitthipong, the General Director of Betagro and a former member of Khon Kaen University Council, who was greatly inspired by assisting communities and has regularly taken factory managers or high-level executives to work with communities. Khun Wanat found that when smart people work, the outcomes are good. Therefore, he came up with the idea to send smart people to do activities with the community by paying salaries. With this idea, the Faculty of Economics then tried it out, by cooperating with Academic Service Bureau, in Ban Ton Sub-district, Phra Yuen District, Khon Kaen. The Faculty hired some alumni to work with the Bureau. Later, the employment was offered during the Covid crisis for former students to work with the Faculty. The Faculty then found out that when smart people work and the knowledge from the university is utilized, there are a lot of benefits. The community has progressed greatly and the academic service has been carried out to the fullest extent.”

……………“Besides the U2T project, Faculty of Economics allocates the budget for lecturers to present their work abroad to employ more people, as the lecturers are not able to travel abroad during this Covid situation. The training is called Economic Playground as a mock of problem-solving of different courses at a sub-district. For example, a lecturer who is interested in a community problem can set it as a research issue. The Faculty then allocates budget for the research. In terms of integration, the Faculty allocates budget for instruction for this matter. For in-depth research work, alumni are employed to join. Besides, there are the working teams, namely, E-san Inside, E-san Outlook, who write an analysis column of Isan economic condition, with information from integration with the sub-districts.”

……………“The integrated sub-district project is principally employment of people and introduction of the university’s bodies of knowledge, or in fact it is the drawing of smart people back home. During the spread of Covid-19, many people and the graduates are unemployed. This has turned out to be a coordination of 3 parties, the newly graduates, the present students, and the local people. Therefore, the real problems in the community can be identified. The knowledge and expertise from the academic staff can be introduced to the community. Although the Faculty of Economics has dedicated to act as an experimental playground with a hope to see the change in the community, the Faculty has no experience in the community. Therefore, we have to scrutinize the community to identify the problem and then plan the mechanism to manage the implementation in that community. The other faculties will thus later find it more convenient to work with the community with their own expertise and knowledge,” Prof. Dr. Kalaphruek Phewthongngam ended.

News / Photos: Wachara Noichompoo

News source: Kamolchanok Chanthachot, a student under the Cooperative Education Program from Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Khon Kaen University




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