The ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) 2016 Partners Forum brought together 60 international and national participants, including RAN partners, USAID officials, stakeholders and development partners under the theme “Leveraging RAN’s Credibility to Propel the Future”. The Forum is an annual engagement characterised by discussions directed towards the growth of RAN in positively impacting communities using ‘Solutions through Innovation.
The forum further provided an opportunity for the RAN team to take stock of where RAN is in terms of Resilience Innovation work, share knowledge across the network, documenting learnings, best practices and challenges and discussing how to position RAN in the future. “You do not need to create new things, leverage what you already have”, Prof Lekan Ayo-Yusuf, Director RAN Southern Africa Resilience Innovation Lab
Maggie Linak, Program Manager – Higher Education Solutions Network at USAID – USAID also participated in the two days long forum and in her remarks said “I always look forward to such meetings, engaging in-depth with the RAN family, these are one of my best moments because helping communities to thrive is one of those things everyone should gladly embrace, support and see happen”.
Prof. William Bazeyo, Dean Makerere University School of Public Health and RAN Chief of Party/Lab Director in his opening remarks thanked all partners for the commitment to transforming communities using innovations. He specifically thanked the Resilience Innovation Lab Directors highlighting that if they were not doing what they are doing, actively contributing to the success of the different regions, the network itself would not be documenting success.
Dr. Roy William Mayega, RAN Deputy Chief of Party highlighted a few questions and key areas as ‘food for thought’ for all participants as he shared an overview of the Partner’s Forum.
Some of the questions included the following;
- How can the RAN Team emancipate themselves in the Resilience and Innovation related work without compromising adaptation?
- How can RAN learn about what motivates the Innovator Team volunteers and multiply that to provide free services directed towards positively transforming the communities?
- What makes some people or communities to thrive in adversity while others lag behind?
- What are the challenges we should be addressing in relation to Resilience and Innovation strengthening?
- In order to unpack several issues, we need to consult the communities, how best can we consult these communities and get all the voices elevated to inform innovation and all the other work we engage in?
During this Partners Forum, it was noted that the Network had been fully constituted with need to further involve more students, faculty, innovators and the community to build a vibrant innovation ecosystem. The network had spread its wings to18 Universities in 13 countries coining 4 Resilience Innovation Labs in the Eastern Africa, Horn of Africa, Southern Africa and West Africa & 1 Resilience Innovation Hub in Somalia. The team was also continually and rigorously engaging industry players to leverage venture funding. All these efforts among others were directed towards documenting African Universities as major sources of knowledge for the world and this knowledge can be translated into innovative solutions to address communities’ most pressing challenges.
It was also exciting to note that all RILabs now have an innovation portifolio pre-empting Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, Makerere University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor to pose a question to the RILab Directors that “Has each one of you identified that Flagship Innovation?” The Network at the moment is keenly looking at 7 out of the 57 innovation projects under incubation (1-Horn of Africa RILab, 5-Eastern Africa RILab and 1-Southern Africa RILab) with the potential to positively transform communities. RAN aims at empowering the communities with the capacity to innovate (enhancing the bottom – up approach).
Participants also deliberated on what makes the RAN credible. Prof. Ky Luu, Executive Director Disaster Resilience Leadership Academy (DRLA) Tulane University and RAN Co-Chief of Party noted that “RAN’s credibility starts with the ability to engage with communities. Through RAN, community voices have been elevated to inform & drive innovations as solutions to the most pressing community challenges”. He added that the trust that exists within the Network and friendships that have emerged over the period make RAN itself an innovation bringing together Universities, students, faculty, innovators and communities at large to innovate.
The Poster Session during this forum further highlighted that some dimensions were pivotal and can dramatically change the status in the community, also highlighting the fact that Resilience is multidimensional.
From Deliberative Polling (DP), a novel approach to community consultation will emanate Policy Briefs which will allow RILabs to engage with advocacy teams “Knowledge Brokers” to inform policy decisions using the priorities of the communities identified in the DP results. To further inform the Innovation pipeline, 2 DPs were held in Uganda, 1 DP in Ghana and another 1 DP is planned in Senegal.
Some of the Key take away messages include the following;
- It was important to understand and highlight what DP is and how it links to the resilience framework.
- Connecting qualitative and quantitative data through the resilience dimensions is paramount in the Innovation process.
- Need to appreciate how data from each RILab speaks and relates to what is happening in the communities.
- RAN Innovation Portfolio had grown to 57 Innovative Projects across the 4 RILabs.
- 1,276 Grant Applications representing 25 countries from 5 continents had been received.
- The RAN Team had now embarked on further building the ecosystem to support innovation.
- Need to continue with Capacity building to the innovators and potential innovators
- Participants had listened to pitches from RAN Innovators (both on video and verbatim) and these needed further refinement. Recommended the need to develop RILab culture around making compelling elevator pitches.
- A suitable platform needs to be identified and used to further share MKITS as short informative videos for knowledge sharing.
- Work on keywords for search engine optimization is in progress.
- In order to propel RAN into the future, the team needed to work on Credibility, Autonomy and Advancement among others.
In his closing remarks, Prof. Bazeyo noted the need to launch DP in continents like Burundi among others to allow for us to know what people would think and share when they are really thinking under good conditions. He also called upon participants to share take home messages from this engagement and these included the following;
- That from the data analysis, one dimension should be selected and this will be pivotal to change the entire system.
- Need to establish how best we can package RAN results into a simple inforgragh to inform all. Get all the RILab data into a format where an individual looks at it and easily understands the content.
- The Portfolio of innovations has grown from 19 to 57 Innovative projects under incubation in the Network.
- Participants easily identified with and used RAN’s Systematic approach to Innovation-the Step wise approach ensures that no stone is left unturned throughout the Innovation process.
- One of the key questions was how to move these Innovations to the market.
- It was fulfilling to link Resilience to Deliberative Polling (DP).
This conversation was also live @AfricaResilient #RANPF2016.