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The African Peacebuilding Network (APN) and the Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa (Next Gen) program held a week-long joint workshop in Peduase, Aburi, Ghana for the 2019 cohort of APN Individual Research Grant (IRG) recipients and the 2019 cohort of Next Gen fellows. The workshop was organized in collaboration with the University of Ghana, Legon from June 24—28, 2019.
15 APN Individual Research Grant participants benefited from lectures, working group sessions, and one-on-one dialogues with experienced facilitators, including senior scholars, and current and former APN Advisory Board members. The grantees met from June 24th to June 26th, 2019. The workshop involved a mix of plenary lectures, small working groups and one-on-one feedback sessions. During breakout sessions, each small working groups led by a facilitator guided grantees through presentation of their projects and peer-review and feedback on each other’s projects. These sessions helped grantees refine their proposals, research questions and methods before heading out to conduct fieldwork and collect data for their research projects.
On June 24th, the workshop began with Ron Kassimir, the Vice President of Programs at the Social Science Research Council making some opening remarks. Professor Yaw Ohenaba-Sakiy, Dean of the School of Continuing and Distance Education, College of Education, at the University of Ghana, Legon also gave welcome remarks, noting the diversity of participants coming from ten different African countries. He also spoke about how he and the University of Ghana were proud to collaborate with the APN and Next Gen programs in promoting research capacity on the African continent. Honorable Sam Okudzeto, former Member of Parliament in Ghana and special guest of honor also discussed the importance of peace as a necessary tool for sustainable development in Africa.
The keynote lecture at the workshop was delivered by Dr. Chukwuemeka Eze, the Executive Director of the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), based in Accra, Ghana. Dr. Eze spoke to “ideal mediation” and how it is of importance to creating synergy between peace and mediation. He also spoke about how peacebuilding is for the good of everyone and emphasized the importance of developing strong national peace infrastructures, and long-term governmental funding of peacebuilding initiatives and programs.
Day two of the workshop involved four plenary lectures by senior scholars and experts in various aspects of peacebuilding research. The first lecture was delivered by Professor Kenneth Omeje on, “The Fundamentals of Peacebuilding Knowledge Production in Africa: Critical Reflections on Qualitative Research Methods.” He encouraged participants to think about how to find the best ways to formulate research projects that address or are capable of helping to structure Africa’s social realities. Professor Omeje also emphasized the fact that primary data can and should only be collected from relevant persons and highlighted the epistemological imperatives of peacebuilding knowledge production.
Professor Temitope Oriola gave the next lecture, titled “Conducting Research in Conflict-Affected Zones: Understanding Particularities, Risks and ‘Insiderness’.” He expressed the view that researchers would be naïve to think they can stand outside history and politics. In this regard, Prof. Oriola advised scholars on the need to find ways to connect to individuals and communities in order to gain access and acceptance. He also emphasized the importance of taking into account the ethical challenges that may occur when researchers are in the field.
The third lecture by Professor Heidi Hudson spoke to “Mainstreaming Gender into Peacebuilding Research Methods.” She made the succinct point that “our gender identity is constructed through the interaction with other identities and that intersectionality is about multiple subjectivities.” Prof. Hudson also emphasized the importance of every researcher working on peacebuilding to remember that the most fundamental part of their fieldwork is to “do no harm”.
The last lecture of the day was given by Professor Ismail Rashid. It was titled, “The Ethics of Fieldwork-based Research in African Peacebuilding.” The lecturer urged participants to always take into account the historical and economic contexts of the countries they are working in. Prof. Rashid also spoke about the need to be constantly challenging our assumptions and ideas and that we should not take theory as unchallengeable.
The third and last day of the workshop was made up of a series of joint activities with Next Gen fellows. The day began with opening remarks and introductions by Professor Ismail Rashid and Professor Sarah Ssali. This was followed by joint working group session with APN grantees and Next Gen fellows during which participants were able to get to know each other and share constructive feedback on each other’s projects.
In the afternoon, APN grantees and Next Gen fellows went to the University of Ghana, Legon for a special keynote speech by Professor Michael Tagoe, Acting Provost at the College of Education. The keynote speech was titled “Why Research Matters: Relevance and Challenges.” During his presentation, Professor Tagoe spoke about the place of research in the University of Ghana and Africa, and advised researchers to apply their research findings towards framing social questions and solving societal problems. . The day activities were concluded with an informative and inspiring off-site visit to the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) where fellows and grantees were given a brief presentation on the history of the Centre and its goals and objectives. Following the visit, APN and Next Gen fellows went to a group dinner.