The Research communities of practice (RCoP), a Carnegie Corporation-funded project of the Rift Valley Institute (RVI), aims to link scholarly research to real-world impact. The project, which builds on RVI’s long-term experience in building research capacity in our region of work, convenes research communities of practice — networks of local researchers — in conflict-affected countries in East and Central Africa. Using this mechanism, it supports the professional development of early-career researchers through training and mentoring and disseminates to the public, knowledge and practice that can influence local, regional and global research and policymaking agendas.
The RCoP is a value-driven project built around a community of practitioners and academics with a common interest in enhancing the capacity and voices of early career researchers in Somalia, Somaliland, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Through a partnership with the Open Society University Network- Hub for connected Learning initiatives, the project has expanded to include refugees in Kakuma refugee camp.
To respond to the knowledge production imbalance in the region, the project seeks to:
1. Establish and convene research Communities of Practice (CoP) in conflict-affected countries in East and Central Africa.
2. Contribute to the professional development of early-career researchers through bespoke training and mentoring to increase local expertise and knowledge production.
3. Influence local, regional and global research as well as policymaking agendas by amplifying the voices of local African scholars and researchers who generate original, rigorous and locally relevant evidence-based research.
Every cohort selected undergoes a 6-month training programme. The programme involves a week-long in-person training in Kenya followed by three hours of online seminars weekly over a 24-week period. The project is designed to encourage peer-to-peer learning and transnational exchanges. At the end of the face-to-face training, the students will submit revised concept notes which are used to pair them with the most appropriate mentors. The mentor pool is drawn from RVI fellows and other experienced researchers from inside and outside the region. They will support and advise the trainees as they undertake their research projects. The training course also includes a writing workshop to build the writing skills of the trainees. The project provides a monthly stipend of USD 150 and a one-off research scholarship of USD 2,000 to facilitate the student’s fieldwork and seminar attendance.
RVI also organizes forums and Community of Practice meetings during the course. These bring together emerging and senior African and international researchers over a three-day period to present their ongoing research findings and receive feedback from other researchers. These COP meetings are opportunities for learning, networking, methodological training, and knowledge exchange. The two COPs will be held in Addis Ababa and Nairobi.
The first cohort commenced the 6-month training on the 18th of September 2022 with an in-person training at Stoni-Athi Hotel in Athi River Kenya. The training hosted 18 participants from DRC, South Sudan, Somalia, Somaliland, and Uganda.