As 2014 comes to a close, we want to take a moment to reflect on the tremendous progress that the EASST Collaborative has made over the year, and share our goals and optimistic outlook for the upcoming 2015. The past 12 months saw large strides towards progressing the network’s four core programming activities, namely, Visiting Fellowships for East African researchers, the Research Grant Competition, the Annual Impact Evaluation Summit, and numerous network development functions to promote research dissemination, career and funding opportunities, and cross-regional interaction.
In Fall 2014, we launched the second round of the EASST Research Grant Competition. The competition received 19 “Stage One” concept notes from independent African researchers, and five full “Stage Two” proposals. Former Visiting Fellow Alebel Weldesilassie, along with CEGA faculty Jon Robinson (UC Santa Cruz), and co-PI Brian Giera (UC Santa Cruz) were awarded $50,000 for their project “Commitment, Flexibility, and Learning: A Field Experiment with Micro-Entrepreneurs in urban Ethiopia”. Two additional projects are expected to receive $50,000 each, pending revisions. With the launch of the 2015 EASST Research Grant Competition, we are looking forward to reviewing the newest round of East African development ideas with the objective to fund innovative evaluations, build substantive collaborations between the U.S. and East African researchers, grow the capacity of local actors, and to improve the quality of social science research in the region.
EASST held its 3rd annual Impact Evaluation Summit in Kigali, Rwanda from June 16-2013, which piggy-backed off of a concurrent regional DIME- World Bank workshop and was co-hosted by the University Rwanda’s School of Public Health. Over 30 U.S. and African researchers attended the summit, which included 11 research presentations by EASST members and CEGA faculty, break-out sessions to discuss topics in research practice, and a review of the collaborative’s activities, accomplishments, and areas for improvement. Together, conference attendees generated a substantive list of practical and creative ways to strengthen the network, several of which have been successfully launched in the 6 months since the Summit took place. The full Conference Report can be read here.
Lastly, we’re proud to feature the fruits of our labors towards connecting the network both internally and externally. This was accomplished through creating several fora and communications with the aim to increase the network’s visibility and expand the pool of regional researchers engaged in rigorous evaluation. Many of these activities were conceived during the Annual Impact Evaluation Summit, and have already been implemented:
- Creating an EASST institutional contacts database, which has enabled a greater communications reach with present and potential EASST members.
- Disseminating a monthly research funding and career opportunities digest to the EASST member listserv (currently numbering 200 subscribers)
- Launching a new, comprehensive EASST website. In addition to an aesthetic overhaul, the new website is easier to navigate, organizes the EASST framework more intuitively and accessibly, and features a blog.
- Launching the EASST blog, which features East Africans’ insights on research in development, including original articles authored by EASST members, and relevant re-postings of material by member institutions.
Thank you, to everyone involved in EASST, for your ongoing support in providing feedback to critically shape the network and for promoting our vision for more evidence-based development. On behalf of the CEGA-EASST program team, we wish you a very happy holidays, and enthusiastically anticipate the impactful, informative research that awaits us in the new year!
Alexandra Orsola-Vidal, Director, Global Impact Network
Jade Stone, Senior Program Associate
Kuranda Morgan, Program Coordinator