Research Proposal Development Workshop for West African Countries

Legon Centre for International Affairs and Diplomacy, University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana

The African Peacebuilding Network (APN) of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), in collaboration with the Legon Centre for International Affairs and Diplomacy (LECIAD) at the University of Ghana in Accra, Ghana, organized a two-day research proposal development and writing workshop on African peacebuilding. Hosted by LECIAD, the workshop brought together thirty-one researchers, junior faculty, early-career PhD holders, policy practitioners, and activists to discuss the art of writing high-quality research and grant application proposals that can contribute to existing African peacebuilding knowledge. The event, which was held October 15–16, 2015, included men and women from conflict-affected West African countries, including Liberia and Sierra Leone, as well as Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo. Participants also included colleagues and PhD students from LECIAD, as well as the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) and the University of Ghana’s Department of Political Science and Institute of African Studies. 

The two-day workshop covered aspects of proposal writing such as choosing a topic, posing research questions, quantitative and qualitative research methods, having a comprehensive literature review, the importance of ethics, budgeting, and “marketing” the importance of the project to an international review of experts. Resource persons aided in the development of strong writing skills and the crafting of highly competitive research proposals. Time was also devoted to learning more about the APN program, namely its goals, activities, and opportunities for research and publication.

The event further served as a forum for networking across national and linguistic blocs in the West African region. It also provided a platform for senior scholars and experts in the area of peacebuilding to mentor, interact with, and inspire younger colleagues to produce high quality research grant proposals in line with the goals of the APN. 

Plenary lectures were delivered by four leading experts who were resource persons for the workshop: Dr. Audrey Gadzekpo (APN 2014 grantee, associate professor, and dean of the School of Information and Communication Studies, University of Ghana); Dr. Hussainatu Abdullah (researcher and independent consultant); and APN advisory board members Professor Ismail Rashid (Vassar College) and Dr. Thomas Tieku (associate professor, King’s University College). Presenters also served as facilitators within smaller training groups where they helped to brainstorm, refine, and provide feedback on prepared draft proposals for eleven core participants.

Lecturers cautioned workshop participants, particularly those planning to apply for APN research grants, not to assume that a higher number of listed outcomes will result in a greater chance of having their proposals accepted. Emphasis was also placed on the value of relating one’s research to the existing literature, identifying gaps, and seeking to extend the frontiers of knowledge based on new and innovative research. Participants’ attention was also drawn towards the importance of maintaining a voice, and seeking new areas of exploration. 

By the end it was agreed that participants had benefited greatly from their one-on-one interactions with leading experts, and appreciated the opportunity to brainstorm research ideas and strengthen their proposals. Closing remarks were made by both APN advisory board members, who commented on participants’ enthusiasm and encouraged everyone to use what they had learned to prepare highly competitive research proposals. Beyond that, they also encouraged individuals to continue writing and producing publishable material as much as they can.

The APN would like to thank the University of Ghana, and particularly LECIAD, for hosting the event.