African Research Network for Urbanization and Habitable Cities

Lead Research Organisation: University of Lagos
Department Name: Cntr for Housing & Sustainable Develop

Abstract

The project, titled 'African Research Network for Urbanization and Habitable Cities' aims at providing a strategic platform for developing research capacities in African Institutions to address the Sustainable Development Goals. Using a hub and spoke model that will see increased collaboration amongst African teams from diverse disciplines, the Network aligns closely with the focus of the ARUA-UKRI GRCF Partnership Programme for creating and strengthening African-African teams and networks.

As the host of the ARUA Centre of Excellence on urbanization and habitable cities, the University of Lagos is the Network hub, providing administrative and research leadership. The pioneer spoke universities are: Federal University of Technology, Minna, Obafemi Awolowo University both in Nigeria; University of Ghana, University of Cape Town, South Africa; American International University (West African Campus), The Gambia; Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre of the Njala University, Sierra Leone, University of Zambia and Uganda Martyrs University, Uganda. This reflects partnership between Sub-Saharan African countries, ranking predominantly as Least Developed and Lower Middle Income Countries on the DAC-list. Another common feature among these countries is the negative impact of rapid urbanization on city forms, limiting productivity of residents and city competitiveness. This is the development challenge that the Network seeks to impact.

Taking advantage of the existing work of its host Centre of Excellence which has eight multidisciplinary research clusters that uses knowledge co-production frameworks in research, advocacy and capacity building programmes, the Network will work within several disciplines required to create sustainable cities, bringing in policy makers, city authorities, businesses, civil society and community residents for impact. In addition, the Network will draw on existing relationships with academic researchers, research groups and organizations in UK institutions who have committed to supporting it. Interactions between the Africa-UK partners will create long term linkages that will lead to expanded knowledge, policy action and transfer for improving productivity, city competitiveness and economic prosperity, and therefore, national economy. The development of newer and stronger partnerships that will endure beyond this grant period is a core impact factor for the Network.

Network activities include themed capacity building workshops to build skills in research, community engagement, policy engaged and business case development, research management, ethics and grant writing amongst others. Some of these will be offered on-line. Other activities are: masterclasses in specific knowledge areas, mandatory PhD colloquial in annual conferences, researcher exchange programs within the hub, spoke and UK universities to ensure mentoring and scoping studies to enable researchers (especially post-graduate and early careers) take part in research activities.
Research and knowledge outcomes arising from this activity will be disseminated through development of tool-kits, policy guide-lines and policy briefs, working papers, journal articles, conference proceedings, information pieces, blogs, monographs, book of readings, book of chapters and most importantly, short messages on social media outlets. Local language dissemination, stakeholder co-production and engagement workshops would be strongly prioritized for activities impacting local communities.

The activities of the Network will be led by the Principal Investigator/Centre Director, Professor T.G Nubi, a seasoned practicing academia who has a strong track record in research, mentoring, private-sector, policy and community engagement. His team will report to an Advisory Board that will oversee the activities of the network and review progress. Network Activities will be spread over 36 months with commencement in September 2019

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this research?
The beneficiaries of the research outcomes are the key stake-holders whose individual and collective activities shape the urban space, rendering it efficient or inefficient as the case may be. These are:
i. Residential communities (reflecting all types of communities to be found in urban areas with consideration for informal and slum settlements)
ii. Public sector organizations, including government offices, public utility/infrastructure and land management agencies amongst others
iii. Private sector organizations whose business processes are created, or support urban growth; including professional bodies and investors
iv. Civil society organizations whose stake in the urban space is reflected in the diversity of their advocacy activities in socio-economic rights as well as other dimensions of sustainable development.

How will they benefit from this research?
The research will contribute to the delivery of outcomes supporting the improvement of lives and wellbeing of the urban poor, especially those in informal settlements through promoting and institutionalizing more supportive approaches that recognises the opportunities for private and public investment, innovation and human capital development that is often trapped in these communities. Network capacity building activities involving communities, civil society organizations working with them, and public sector organizations whose policy implementation affects them will have the impact of promoting deeper engagement and evidence driven practice leading to a more vibrant and well-informed urban society that makes use of evidence, and advocates based on evidence. The business community will be a beneficiary through targeted engagements with the network members. The opportunity to co-create innovative, economically viable urban solutions will be a direct impact from the project.

What will be done to ensure that they have the opportunity to benefit from this activity?
(i) Developing a strategy for engagement with target audiences: The Network will
develop engagement strategies that will recognize the most effective means of collaboration with beneficiary groups. In general, for research based activities, the preferred strategy is transdisciplinary research that brings in key stakeholders as research partners from project inception.
(ii) Contextualized methods for communication and engagement for each stakeholder group:
For instance, local language communication will be prioritized especially when working with local community partners. Policy briefs and policy papers will be more appropriate for communicating with government sector; blogs and on-line social media communication will be better suited for general audience, younger collaborators and local communities, while technical papers will be adopted for private sector partners.
(iii) Maximizing other opportunities for collaboration: In seeking sustainability of the
Network to make impact both during and after the ARUA-UKRI funding, a deliberate culture of collaborating with beneficiaries/stakeholders by partnering in grants application, fellowships, capacity building and events will be adopted. In this, the Network shall take advantage of the services offered by the University of Lagos Research and Innovation office, which provides support for collaborative activities from grant writing/management to patenting and technology incubation centres.
(iv) Monitoring and evaluation of impact plan activities: During the currency of the grant, monitoring and evaluation of activity impact would be carried out at the end of each specific activity -for example, at the end of jointly organized conferences and workshops, with the use of known impact evaluation tools

Publications

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