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The African Peacebuilding Network (APN), in collaboration with the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Makerere University, held its second training workshop for the program’s 2016 cohort of individual research grantees at the Lake Victoria Serena Resort in Kampala, Uganda, on December 14-16, 2016. The workshop focused on the writing and dissemination of grantees’ research findings following six months of APN-supported field-based research projects. Combining lectures, working group sessions, and one-on-one dialogues with mentors who are also well-published experts in the field of peacebuilding, grantees were able to engage with each other, network, and get constructive feedback on their draft publications as well as strategies for further disseminating the results of their research projects.
The workshop kicked off with opening remarks by the Prof. Nansozi Muwanga, Head of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Makerere University, Uganda, and Dr. Cyril Obi, APN Program Director, while Prof. Edward Kirumira, Principal, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Makerere University, also gave welcoming remarks.
Lectures were delivered by Prof. Abu Bakarr Bah (Northern Illinois University), Prof. Gilbert Khadiagala (APN Advisory Board member, University of Witwatersrand), Dr. Arthur Bainomugisha (Makerere University), Prof. Pamela Mbabazi (APN Advisory Board member, Mbarara University of Science and Technology), Prof. Thomas Tieku (APN Advisory Board member, King’s University College at Western University, Canada), Prof. Duncan Omanga (2014 APN Alumnus, Moi University), and Prof. Ismail Rashid (APN Advisory Board member, Vassar College). Professors Bah, Tieku, Rashid, and Khadiagala and Dr. Amy Niang (2013 APN Alumnus, University of Witwatersrand) also led, and provided mentorship to the five working groups of workshop participants.
Prof. Bah’s lecture on “Perspectives to Peacebuilding in Africa: An Overview” focused on various peacebuilding approaches. His view that some of the approaches do not sufficiently problematize the nature of political and economic institutions in Africa sparked a strong debate over the limitations of making broad generalizations about the complex roots and drivers of conflict in Africa.
It was followed by Prof. Khadiagala’s lecture, which addressed the topic “Bridging the Gaps in African Peace and Security Research: Challenges and Interventions.” He underlined the need for African peacebuilding researchers to understand those aspects of the current universal understanding of security that relate to Africa’s realities, drawing upon Thomas Kuhn’s notion of epistemological paradigm shifts in knowledge production. He concluded his presentation by suggesting potential research directions in African peace and security, and invited grantees’ to explore how their research can fit into and expand the existing research agendas.
Focusing on the policy-relevant aspects of research-based production of knowledge, Dr. Bainomugisha’s lecture on “Transforming Research Findings into Policy Inputs: Things to Note When Writing for a Policy Audience” spoke to the content and techniques of writing for policy-makers and practitioners. He emphasized the importance of being aware of both the intended and unintended consequences of policy, noting as follows, that “the cost of policy engagement is very high. Activists and researchers should plan for this reality.” He then identified various strategies for engaging policy makers, and outlets for publishing research findings, including the pros and cons of each approach. Dr. Bainomugisha admitted that “research is challenging and unattractive, but is essential to reforming society”. He also emphasized the need to pay attention to facts; creativity, autonomy, and ethical conduct which engaging with policymakers.
Day two of the conference opened with a lecture by Prof. Mbabazi on “Understanding the Natural Resource Conflict Nexus in African Peacebuilding.” She explored the rich literature on the natural resource-violent conflict debate, and spoke to how this nexus fits into Africa’s conflict landscape. Of note were the debates around the room on the “resource curse thesis,” and African perspectives to the natural resource-conflict linkage. However, there was a broad agreement that the drivers of conflict in Africa were complex and dependent on certain specificities, and that the natural resources–conflict linkage could at best only partially explain Africa’s conflicts.
Prof. Tieku’s presentation focused on strategies for the dissemination of research findings. His lecture on “Disseminating Research Findings through Peer-reviewed Journals” spoke to the importance of publishing research findings in reputable peer-reviewed Journals. According to him, “When publishing in peer-reviewed journals young scholars must target top-rated journals.”
On his part, 2014 APN Alumnus Dr. Duncan Omanga gave an engaging lecture on innovative strategies and platforms for disseminating research-based knowledge. His talk on “Disseminating Research Findings through New and Social Media and Web-Based Platforms: What Works Best, Why, and How?” explored ways other than traditional approaches to publish research findings. He identified the different audiences that can be reached by publishing in academic journals in contrast to academic journals. He noted, “this means that apart from publishing in professional journals, or presenting at a conference, there is a clear and urgent need to go beyond the ‘ivory tower’ and push that knowledge to those who need it most.” Dr. Omanga concluded by sharing insights from his personal experience with publishing in both traditional and new media, including his experience with his most used social media platforms for dissemination: Twitter, Facebook, and Academia.edu.
The final lecture of the workshop, titled “Writing on African Peacebuilding: Reflections on Personal Experiences,” was delivered by Prof. Ismail. He started his presentation by sharing his personal experience on important questions to consider prior to publishing a book. For him, two questions stood out: which format will best serve as a platform for disseminating research findings, and what is the intended audience for the published work? He also spoke to the important steps grantees’ must go through to ensure the production of a high-quality book, including what he identified as arguably the most tedious step, but an important one, responding to the comments of peer reviewers and copy editors.
At the concluding plenary of the workshop, a representative of each of the five working groups presented feedback from their activities to all participants and resource persons. They also spoke about their plans for continued networking, and future engagement with mentors.
Please see additional photos from the event on the APN Flickr