The year 2019 was filled with many important milestones for Eider Africa. On top of this, we had numerous rewarding collaborations as indicated below:
Applying Reflexive Research to Re-position Marginal Voices
This year we participated in extremely motivating research projects focused on populations that are often at the margins of development actions or problematically included in development processes. These include women and youth from displaced populations like urban and camp-based refugees, tea and coffee smallholder farmers in Kenya, survivors of election-related sexual violence, men living in urban poor spaces, adolescent sexual reproductive health, children experiencing violence, and postgraduate scholars in Kenya.
Our main research goal has been to examine intersections of gender, generation, context, and outcomes of specific project activities that these groups participate in. We have been keen to explore the representation of voice in policy and practice as well as the effect this has on the type and extent of projects designed for them/with them. Our approach has provided these populations an opportunity to give voice to their realities and offer insights into the support they need in the future.
In addition, this year we particularly developed a niche in gender analysis research and took part in four specific projects. Our researchers participated in research projects for the following organizations SwissContact, Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation, World University Services of Canada- MasterCard Foundation project, Kenya Tea Development Agency – Foundation, USAID/KEA, Nascent Research, and Development Organization Kenya, and Uganda among others. We look forward to a year of more research collaborations with different organizations and researchers.
Building robust communities of scholars – (Journal Clubs)
We had a vibrant research mentorship program (Eider Africa) anchored on Promoting Lifelong Learning. Our focus is geared towards addressing these two main concerns
- How can institutions of higher learning develop research mentorship environments for early career researchers that enable them to produce and use knowledge imaginatively?
- How can research mentorship initiatives for early-career African scholars open up new thought spaces that go beyond the dominant ways of knowing and embrace multiplicities of theories and methodologies?
We believe in collaboratively mentoring upcoming scholars and leveling down hierarchies that are inherent within academia. One of the main initiatives that leverage on peer to peer mentorship, is the multidisciplinary Journal Club which we initiated in 2018. In 2019, we grew from 45 to 208 members drawn from over 10 private and public universities. The membership consists of post-graduate students (Masters and Ph.D.), lecturers, and scholars working for various organizations. We have had over 15 Mentorship Sessions with qualified mentors and peers (face-to-face or zoom sessions). The sessions were at no cost to the participants.
Journal club members benefited in multiple ways from the club engagements. Highlighted below is some of the feedback shared by members who participated in the Journal Club Review.
“The club has enhanced my research skills especially on literature synthesis and developing the problem statement. I have connected with peer researchers”.
“I have received guidance on how to develop my research paper. The shut up and write sessions have also entrenched some writing discipline in me. The members are so supportive in ALL respects, from sharing jobs to pro bono coaching and celebrating every single, small milestone of other members. I feel a sense of belonging”.
“I have received information on conferences, scholarships, and training, I was trained on NVIVO and networking skills”.
“ I have learned networking skills, tips on writing up my research, motivation-from peoples stories, achievements & challenges and an opportunity to do a presentation on zoom”
In addition, we take the mental health and wellbeing of upcoming scholars and researchers very seriously. We realize that research or working on research projects is laborious and sometimes wearisome. Therefore, we fully embraced Joyce Wangari’s (Psychologist Ph.D.) initiative to hold monthly Study Smart series delivered by qualified psychologists in the club. The program focuses on providing scholars with tools that promote their well-being and help them navigate better their research journeys.
Our founder Aurelia Munene had the pleasure of working with AuthorAid as a guest facilitator and a facilitator of the AuthorAid Journal Clubs which drew over 200 scholars from different parts of the world. AuthorAid INASP runs online courses that are accessible, free, and of high quality. She introduced the Journal Club members in Kenya to AuthorAid courses and the members have taken up many courses. She also participated as a guest facilitator for the research writing in the sciences.
Our leadership systems were strengthened towards the end of the year by the appointment of a motivated board of directors, committee advisers, and directors Eider Africa Team. Through them, we will build robust programs next year and create new collaborations for emerging scholars.
Conferences and Speaking Engagements
We always work towards participating in forums that allow us to share and learn from other practitioners. For example:
Panelist at the Archiving Kenya’s Past and Futures: Stewardship and Care of Research Data hosted by Angela Okune & Leonida Mutuku with support from Book Bank at McMillan Library in Nairobi. Archiving Research Data
Training on Engaging Men and Boys in SGBV for service providers from Uganda organized by Lunds University Switzerland held in Nairobi – July 2019 Program
We presented a paper on Male Experiences of Child Care Giving in Urban Poor Settlements of Nairobi: Implications on Social Protection and Gender Relations at the 2nd Concordia-McGill Universities African Studies for the Conference Rethinking Africa’s Urban Future(s).
We presented a paper on Social-ecological investigation of research development experiences among urban-based postgraduate students in a Kenyan university at the BIEA-graduate-conference. Theme: African Urban Futures.
We participated in a study conducted by the University of Birmingham‘s Dr. Caroline Bradbury and Dr. Sanne Weber. The study report is titled: Experiences with participatory research and perspectives on ethical research partnerships on Gender-Based Violence in Kenya. We hope to advocate for more meaningful engagements between Kenyan and international researchers as well as ethical interactions between researchers and research participants.
Authored a Blog article on the INASP site talking about Developing Research Capacities in Africa.
Our founder joined AFELT an organization working with university lecturers to enhance university teaching outcomes. Eider Africa is particularly interested in improving how research is taught at universities. It is with that spirit that our founder together with Angela Okune (researcher) co-developed the AFELT Survey which was administered to the lecturers in the organization. The results were captured in the report titled: Transforming research teaching and supervision among lecturers in Kenya Universities May – June 2019. We hope to develop a program together with AFELT on this.
The main findings from the survey were that university lecturers who teach and supervise research have a high workload, limiting the time they can dedicate to developing as researchers. Research teaching methods that are ‘theoretical’ (abstract) and not practical are seen as not effective for them or the students. They have a strong desire to be part of peer-to-peer mentorship programs as well as workshops where they can hone their research skills better.
Through AFELT, we also participated in a session called Unpacking Thinking where lecturers met to discuss how to facilitate thinking among students during lectures. Our participation is pegged on our role as providers of research mentorship programs that support upcoming scholars who double up as students and practitioners.
In addition, we participated in a workshop titled: Identity, experience, and practices: A transformational educational resource. The Network of Teaching &Learning Seminar Series facilitated by Professor Jane Saffell.
Technology and Young People
We are passionate about supporting young people learn and use technology. In 2019 we were glad to collaborate with Egalaxykenya supported by the Japanese company PCN team. Our focus has been to deliver STEM training to young people aged 9- 17 years to promote Robotics and Computer Programming. Our role is to coordinate the program given our experience in organizing learning programs. In 2020 we hope to embed Life Skills training into the program specifically on Communication and Self Care. We are excited to see young people sharpen their design thinking skills as well as learn to program robots. We have reached 21 young people.
Next Steps 2020
In 2020 we will step up our activities a notch higher to develop structured and responsive research mentorship programs for postgraduate students, lecturers, and undergraduate scholars as encapsulated here. We also seek partnership and collaborations here to support our Journal Club activities so that we can hold many club activities
1. Our next year journal club activities include:
- Promote peer-to-peer collaborations in consultancy projects and scholarly publications.
- Develop a funding proposal to seek support for journal club activities.
- Have more peer mentors on board.
- Improve our monitoring and evaluation processes
- Develop advocacy strategies and possible solutions for some of the critical issues affecting upcoming scholars in Kenya.
- Strengthen our Shut Up and Write Sessions
- Strengthen peer review of academic text and academic reading in the club
- Organize a symposium on Building and Sustaining Vibrant Scholarship Communities in Africa.
We are looking for mentors and coaches in the following areas:
- Academic writing
- Research Proposal
- Research Paradigm and Philosophies
- Research Pedagogy
- Scholarly Publication
- Critical Thinking
- Mixed Methods Study’
- Applying for Scholarships
- Research Paradigms and Methodologies
- Qualitative Research
- Quantitative Research
- Research Dissemination
- Developing Grant Proposal
- Effective Networking Skills
- Self Branding and Communication
- Developing a Blog/Vlog
Apply here to be a mentor here.
2. We will hold 4 thematic research workshops on:
- Research Paradigms and Philosophies
- Critical Thinking
- Research Proposal Writing
- Academic Writing
Look out for details and requirements in February 2020
3. Research Projects: We will continue to focus on Gender Analysis, Youth Programs, Livelihoods, and Higher Education.
As we close the year, the Eider Family wishes you a Merry Xmas and a bountiful new year. Thank you for being part of our family.
This blog has been written by our founder Aurelia Munene drawing feedback from various groups the organization has interacted with during the year. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org