“Understanding Dimensions of Vulnerability and Adaptation”
The bright afternoon of Wednesday March 11, 2015 in Washington D.C saw David Ferguson, Director, Center for Development Innovation, U.S Global Development Lab, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) officially launch RAN’s first ever “State of African Resilience” Report. The report identifies major dimensions of resilience from the perspective of more than a dozen vulnerable communities across sub-Saharan Africa. The highlights in this report range from; How communities in Uganda are contending with the effects of climate variability and post-conflict recovery? How communities in South Africa are addressing the link between HIV/AIDS and poverty? to How urban populations in Ghana are addressing the economic and public health challenges associated with rapid urbanization among others. The event attracted over 150 participants including dignitaries from the Embassy of the Republic of Uganda in Washington D.C, USAID top management, representatives from the Management Sciences for Health, Makerere University top management, Tulane University’s Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy, management Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), multi-disciplinary students, faculty, the business community operating in the USA, private practitioners, RAN’s Southern Africa and West Africa Resilience Innovation Lab among others.
Dave Ferguson in his opening remarks thanked Prof. William Bazeyo, Dean Makerere University School of Public Health (MakSPH) and RAN Chief of Party/Lab Director for the able leadership emphasizing that it is through such a committed and consistent team that USAID also realizes her goals including strengthening resilience in African target communities. He added, “It is with no hesitation therefore, that I declare this “State of African Resilience” Report launched on this 11th Day of March, 2015”. Thank you Prof. Bazeyo for yet another milestone in the network and aiding the greater Higher Education Solutions Network and Global Development Lab achieve their goal in strengthening resilience. That the goal of the ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) is to strengthen resilience at the individual and community levels using innovative interventions as the RAN slogan goes “Solutions through Innovation”. He urged all participants to join in leveraging the potential within the Universities and communities at large to address development challenges.
“We want to translate the research findings in this “State of African Resilience report into resilience interventions which will positively impact the communities” noted Prof. William Bazeyo. He added that, if Universities closely worked with the communities, the efforts would yield community-driven solutions. However, more research should be conducted to explore how to further interest the academia to help communities.
“This is the time to take action in addressing communities’ most pressing challenges and the “State of African Resilience” report which has been launched today demonstrates to us all how to take action” added a cheerful Prof. Bazeyo. He urged all to get out of their offices and engage with the communities as a centerpiece to addressing community challenges.
Prof. Ky Luu, the Executive Director, Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy in Tulane University challenged participants to identify lessons from the Hurricane in Katrina to be applied to natural disaster response in Africa. He added that it was evident that strengthening resilience required the participation of the local/community leaders, thus the importance of community engagement right from the genesis of all work related to strengthening resilience. He remarked, “With the appropriate response mechanisms, even the most vulnerable communities are capable of bouncing back to almost normality after the occurrence of a disaster manifesting as a shock or stress”.
Highlights from the first ever Deliberative Polling (DP) exercises in Africa both in the Mt. Elgon region of Uganda and West Africa-Ghana were also shared at this event. Prof. James Fishkin, Professor of Communications and Director, Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University reflected on DP as an innovative approach to objective measurement of community opinions employed by the RAN. He also voiced policy attitudes, the top priorities after deliberation and comments from the DP participants.
Additionally, the Directors, Southern and West Africa Resilience Innovation Labs, Prof. Lekan Ayo-Yusuf and Dennis Chirawurah respectively, each shared the Resilience Innovation Lab (RILab) context specific resilience framework to aid further understanding of the content in the “State of African Resilience” report. Their emphasis was on the theory of change, RAN’s definition of resilience, the RILab thematic areas of focus, qualitative methodology for the community consultations and the resilience dimensions.
As the climax of the launch, participants actively joined in the question and answer session to garner clarity to some issues raised during the discussions. Questions covered diverse areas ranging from MakSPH-RAN’s involvement in fighting the deadly Ebola disease, further engagement of other development partners within and outside Uganda, development of the resilience framework, the Deliberative Polling (DP) approach for community consultations, female and youth involvement in RAN’s activities, business model for the RAN innovators to strengthening resilience of Persons Living with HIV and AIDS with its related effects including poverty.
MakSPH-RAN acknowledges not only the continuous support from USAID but also efforts from all its partners including Tulane University’s Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy (DRLA), Stanford University and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in making this process a success. “The RILabs, student innovators, faculty, community, development partners and network plus partners’ contribution cannot go without mention; you are the people who are frequently directly interfacing with the communities in need and at the fore front of all the hard work geared towards strengthening the resilience of target African communities” noted Prof. Bazeyo.
Please access the report at https://csis.org/publication/state-african-resilience
Insights at the launch of the “State of African Resilience” Report in Washington DC