Emory Report
December 3, 2007
Volume 60, Number 13

Institute for Developing Nations to solicit research proposals for funding awards

Who should apply:
Faculty interested in research related to improving the lives of those living in poverty in developing nations, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. IDN is particularly interested in proposals that are interdisciplinary and involve partnerships with
in-country researchers.

Jan. 22, 2008

Learn more:

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December 3, 2007
Local understanding key to Western, African collaborations

From Staff Reports

When universities in this country have partnered with their counterparts in Africa, the track record of collaboration has been mixed. That’s something Emory’s new Institute for Developing Nations seeks to change, and the first major step was taken at a groundbreaking academic conference in Cape Town, South Africa.

The October conference, “Research Partnerships and Collaborations for Development: Strengthening Structures of Reciprocity and Responsibility,” brought together researchers from Emory and collaborating partners from South Africa and several other African countries, including Liberia, Ethiopia, Senegal, Mozambique and Burkina Faso — some 50 scholars in all. Regional research institutes, foundations and nongovernmental organizations that support higher education in sub-Saharan Africa also were represented.
Participants explored the structures and ethics of research collaborations and their potential benefits and pitfalls.

“If we are going to do research on development, we have to recognize local expertise and partner with researchers in sub-Saharan Africa,” said IDN Director Sita Ranchod-Nilsson. “These partnerships involve defining research agendas and outcomes as well as training students.”

The emphasis on local understanding is one aspect that the IDN hopes will set it apart from other university collaborations involving institutions in the U.S. and Africa. Partnerships between Western and African institutions — though well-intentioned — frequently fail to deliver on their goals of improving conditions for those living in poverty because they overlook local priorities, knowledge and political contexts.

The IDN is approaching issues of development in a different way by working in collaboration with African researchers and policy experts, several dozen of whom were in Cape Town for the inaugural conference.

Although they represented fields as diverse as law, arts, social science and public health, the attendees found common ground in their past experiences of research partnerships between Western and African institutions. A key outcome of the conference was identifying areas of tension in previous partnerships and establishing strategies for addressing those tensions so that collaborations will be mutually beneficial and, thus, more sustainable. Another outcome of the discussions was the need to look beyond universities to the wide variety of research networks that are developing, particularly South-South networks, Ranchod-Nilsson said.

Through an upcoming grant process, IDN will provide support for research projects and workshops to develop research proposals that reflect the conversations held in South Africa.

Founded in partnership with The Carter Center in fall 2006, the mission of IDN is to harness the experience and passion of Emory’s faculty and students, and leverage the University’s networks worldwide, toward understanding and alleviating the underlying causes of poverty in the developing world. By bringing together the academic resources of a major research university, the experience of prominent and respected NGOs, and strategic partnerships with scholars, policy makers and research institutes in the developing world, IDN is in a unique position to design and promote new strategies to improve the lives of those living in poverty.

The conference was an important step in the IDN’s progress. “Carter Center Trustee Charlayne Hunter-Gault told me that if want to work in sub-Saharan Africa, we have to ‘walk in right,’ meaning that we can’t come in with all the answers, we have to be prepared to listen,” Ranchod-Nilsson said. “I think this conference helped us to walk in right.”