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Learning together across scales: the KNOW Africa Regional Network takes shape.

During the week of the 10th – 14th of November 2019, KNOW African City Partners from Kampala, Dar es Salaam and Freetown converged for their first regional meeting in Kampala, Uganda.

Also in attendance were representatives from the different KNOW research teams that had thematic engagements with the various City Partners. These included Work Package 1, researching co-production; Work Package 2, exploring extreme poverty; and Work Package 3, visually mapping the energy briquette process to draw out ethical issues at the intersection of research and enterprise. The regional workshop served as a good opportunity and a platform to have detailed conversations about the progress and planned outputs of three African cities halfway into the KNOW project. With 16 members of the programme present, it was also a great opportunity for networking and in-depth cross-city team building, and integration of the expanded teams built by the various city leads.

The core objectives of the week were built around a series of workshops to explore:

  • Firstly, the operationalisation and sustenance of co-production across the programme and for which a detail examination of the host (Kampala ‘waste to energy: briquette making project’) was used as a case for wider reflection

  • The workshops were used to discuss a specific common interest in the nexus between shocks, poverty and inequalities in Kampala, and appropriate methodologies for similar enquires across the cities

  • To explore ethical issues on the ground at the intersection of research and enterprise, and co-produce an ethics Manifesto led by Work Package 3 investigators

  • To explore the spaces of collaboration and future knowledge exchanges between the three cities, and the long-term vision for the Regional Network.

Above: Briquette making community group in Bwaise III;

Title Image: KNOW investigators co-producing a live manifesto, Images David Heymann, 2019


Briquette making as a co-produced waste to energy endeavour in Kampala:

The Regional Network Meeting begun with the Kampala team organising field visits to selected communities and meetings with their representatives (all the 7 community groups involved in the Kampala City Project were present). This allowed the KNOW team to better appreciate the plan of the Kampala project, see and interact first hand with the community groups including demonstrations about the process of briquette making, and appreciate the challenges and opportunities of undertaking the research on briquette making. There was a collective appreciation and documentation of how the briquette production process and plans to scale up its business potential were:

  1. an example of a co-produced endeavour of several actors and communities across the city, with identifiable roles, participation, ownership and knowledge sharing amongst the actors;

  2. briquette-making was a catalyst for community mobilisation and there were observed existing community structures, strategies and networking that the project leveraged upon;

  3. it was possible to appreciate the community/city wide impact of the reduction of organic waste and the extended reach (and potential market) of briquette making through the agency of the umbrella cooperative, (the Lubaga Charcoal Briquette Cooperative Society Limited – LUCHACOS);

  4. There was an observable gendered dimension to the process of briquette-making. The efforts at scaling up businesses and intended benefits for the communities could be seen through the instrumentality of women and women groups.

Overall, the visits and reflections were very insightful and served as moment for some cross-city knowledge exchange as the Dar es Salaam CCI-led team for instance, expressed interest in integrating some of the lessons and processes in their own work.

Learning together- shocks and extreme poverty workshop, Image: David Heymann 2019


Joining the dots: Shocks, poverty and inequalities in cities:

In the KNOW African cities, residents especially in low income and informal settlements are increasingly vulnerable to a growing range of shock (environmental, socio-economic, political etc) and the consequent impact on poverty and inequalities is a worthwhile enquiry. Drawing on the Kampala team’s emerging work on this theme and the common interest shared across the cities, the regional workshop was used to discuss and delve deeper in how, where and why shocks occur in the cities and how the impacts can be better understood or assessed.

At the heart of the rich discussions were two central objectives; firstly, to collectively shaped and documented the conceptualisation of shocks based on an initial literature review, and secondly to explore appropriate methodological approaches to studying and measuring shocks in the city contexts. A suite of methods, and concrete examples based on KNOW researchers’ current and previous research was also presented and their potential adoption into the Kampala case was deliberated upon.

KNOW Africa regional workshop team with Kampala community partners, Image: David Heymann 2019


Networking Beyond KNOW:

The working week coalesced a significant interest for the cities to maintain the regional network and begin planning for the future activities and long-term vision of the network, including extending its reach to non-KNOW cities. Beyond the functional advantages of the network serving as a learning and knowledge exchange hub for the project, it was also envisioned as a potential and important legacy vehicle for KNOW; a regional community of researchers and practitioners learning together beyond the lifecycle of the programme. There are further conversations to be had in the coming months to take these ideas and plans forward for the African network of KNOW cities, but the team will always look back on the working week in Kampala where the first steps of learning together across scale were taken.

Above: KNOW Investigators at Makerere University workshop on ‘Ethics of Co-Production’ Manifesto, image: David Heymann 2019

Further outcomes from the week, such as outputs from the Work Package 3 visual mapping workshop, will be shared in 2020.


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