Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa joint Bi-Annual Fellows Workshop

Peduase, Aburi, Ghana - Peduase Valley Resort

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.

35 Next Gen Proposal Development, Dissertation Research, and Dissertation Completion fellows were joined by six experienced and dynamic scholars and Next Gen board members in Peduase, Ghana for a three-day workshop event including an entire day devoted to holding a series of joint activities with APN grantees. Next Gen fellows met from June 26 –28, 2019. The workshop was designed to help early-career faculty from African universities learn more about each other’s work, engage in scholarly reflections, research, writing and networking.  Other activities included a series of lectures, working group sessions and one-on-one feedback sessions with facilitators on individual projects and interdisciplinary perspectives to research.

On June 26, Next Gen fellows joined APN grantees to discuss their research projects and share perspectives regarding their thematic interests. The morning session began with opening remarks and introductions by APN Advisory Board member, Professor Ismail Rashid and Next Gen Advisory Board member, Professor Sarah Ssali. This was followed by joint working group sessions 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’s 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.

The second day of the Next Gen workshop consisted of parallel breakout sessions where fellows met with their assigned facilitators in groups based on their place in the Next Gen fellowship sequence. During these sessions fellows and facilitators engaged each other by discussing the following:  research problems, key concepts, and research methods. Fellows also learned how to frame and connect their research questions to methods. In the afternoon, fellows and facilitators gathered for a riveting roundtable on “Everyday Challenges of African Doctoral Scholars.” Fellows and facilitators took turns talking about their experiences and raising questions about
the challenges faced by PhD students in African various universities, countries and regions. Some of them described how being a PhD student has impacted their social lives, others spoke about building good relationships with their supervisors, and many spoke about the importance of taking care of one’s wellbeing while completing a dissertation.

On the third and last day of the workshop, June 28th, activities commenced with a plenary lecture given by Professor Sarah Ssali titled, “Researching Gender and Post-Conflict Development in Africa.” During her lecture she discussed ways in which women’s experiences can be highlighted in research while also rejecting the male-dominant paradigm. Prof. Ssali also talked about the ethics of being a researcher and the need to be careful when collecting data, so as not to reignite people’s trauma. Towards the end of her lecture, she passionately emphasized the need for researchers to provide research respondents with the space to tell their own side of the truth. During the afternoon sessions  fellows moved  into their thematic group sessions, where they engaged in discussions and debates  about their research themes, gaps and trends in the literature and  how to use these in refining  their research questions and research designs.