African Peacebuilding Network and Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa National Proposal Writing Workshop

Ramada Resort by Wyndham Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

The African Peacebuilding Network (APN) and the Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa (Next Gen) program held a national proposal writing workshop in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Participants were given the opportunity to share their draft projects and research proposals with their peers and several experienced mentors. The workshop was organized in collaboration with the College of Social Sciences, University of Dar es Salaam from December 6th to 7th, 2019.

20 participants benefitted from lectures, roundtables, breakout sessions, and one-on-one sessions with experienced mentors and current and past members of both APN and Next Gen Advisory Boards. Some alumni of the APN and Next Gen programs attended and played the role of peer-mentors to some of the participants. The workshop was to help participants refine their research/project proposals ahead of submission to APN and Next Gen Fellowship competitions. Other goals included helping them build upon their proposal writing skills. It was an opportunity to inform Tanzanian scholars about the opportunities that the APN and Next Gen Fellowships offer them to advance their research skills and professional development. Another point is that Tanzania had been under-represented in terms of applications received by APN and Next Gen and it was hoped that the workshop will sensitize Tanzanian scholars to both programs and increase the number of applications received as well as increase the representation of Tanzanian scholars in APN and Next Fellowship cohorts.

The first day of the workshop began with opening remarks by Dr. Cyril Obi, the Program Director of APN and Next Gen. Dr. Obi homed in on the main objective of both the SSRC and the University of Dar es Salaam; to facilitate the transfer of knowledge from one generation to another. Dr. Obi continued by talking about the focus of both the APN and Next Gen fellowships and emphasized how the participants are well on their way to beginning their journey. Professor Razack Lokina, Principal of the College of Social Sciences at the University of Dar es Salaam, was represented by Dr. Sigalla Huruma spoke to the benefits of the workshop  as an important opportunity for participants drawn from across the country to strengthen their capacities for proposal writing, and working with senior and highly experienced mentors to develop their draft proposals  ahead of applying for APN and Next Gen fellowship awards. He also commended the partnership between the University of Dar es Salaam and the Social Science Research Council, describing the workshop as a highly valued opportunity for the participants can expand their knowledge on the various aspects of proposal writing, research method ethics, literature review, and editing.

The first keynote lecture of the day was delivered by Professor Sarah Ssali, Dean of the School of Women and Gender Studies at Makerere University and Chair of the Next Gen Advisory Board. The title of her presentation was “Situating Research on Peacebuilding and Development in East Africa.” During her keynote lecture, Professor Ssali talked about how conflict in East Africa is not always clear because it is seen as a region that is politically dynamic and diverse, has the greatest level of development, and has the least wars. However, she does emphasize that there is still a lot of research that needs to be done on conflicts in East Africa. Furthermore, Professor Ssali advised participants to go beyond focusing on land conflicts and asked them to keep this question in mind: How do these conflicts (terrorism, post-election conflict, conflict of the youth, etc.) play out in terms of gender, ethnicity, and local and international politics?

The second keynote lecture on “The Fundamentals of Crafting a Winning Research Proposal: Linking Research Questions, Theory, and Methods” was given by Dr. Christine Now, senior lecturer in Geography at the University of Dar es Salaam and member of the Next Gen Advisory Board. Dr. Noe presented participants with the four reasons to develop their proposal writing skills: to build their capacity to write highly competitive proposals, make intellectually compelling arguments; nurture a clear and coherent research agenda; and to raise the standard of the academic quality of the research project. She also emphasized you’re the importance of content of research proposals to actively push for an African narrative.

The first roundtable of the workshop on “Academic Citizenship: African Universities, Society, and Developing an Academic Culture.” featured Professor Ismail Rashid (Vassar College), Professor Sarah Ssali (Makerere University), Ernest Mallya (University of Dar es Salaam), Damian Shumbusho (University of Dar es Salaam), and Iddy Ramadhani Magoti (Next Gen alumnus 2013/2014, IRG 2018), and was moderated by Duncan Omanga (Program Officer, APN and Next Gen). One of the key points that the roundtable participants emphasized was the three roles of the academic; to teach, to research and produce knowledge, and participate in public/community services. They recognized the dual role of academics as citizens and scholars and explored ways of advancing both roles simultaneously. Of note were the guiding principles of commitment, professional development and contribution to national development through teaching, research and service. Participants are discussed the importance of belonging to international networks of scholars and knowing what other scholars are doing in other parts of the world.

The second day of the national workshop began with one-on-one sessions and was followed by a presentation given by Professor Ismail Rashid, professor of history at Vassar College and Chair of the APN Advisory Board. The title of his presentation was “Conducting Fieldwork-based Research in Conflict-Affected Settings: Design, Techniques, and Ethics” where he talked about researchers needing to be aware of their position of privilege when working in certain conflict-affected environments. Professor Rashid also advised scholars on the need to always act in an ethical manner; in other words, acting with integrity when in the field or working with junior colleagues or their PhD students. He emphasized the importance of always operating within the ethical framework of “do no harm” to research participants or respondents.

The last roundtable of the workshop was titled “APN and Next Gen Alumni Testimonials: My APN/Next Gen Fellowship Experience” and featured the following alumni; Enock Makupa (APN IRG 2016), Iddy Ramadhani Magoti (Next Gen 2013/2014, IRG 2018), Verdiana Tilumanya (Next Gen 2012), and was moderated by Duncan Omanga (Program Officer, APN and Next Gen). The panelists talked about the ways in which receiving either an APN or Next Gen fellowship allowed them to continue their research and spoke to how the fellowship enabled them complete their PhDs, while that of the APN spoke to how they was able to complete their project and how it impacted their professional development. They also spoke on the ways in which being part of the APN and Next Gen community has benefited them, from building a network of scholars to being able to continue their field work and research.