Fostering flourishing and resilient communities in Africa

On 14 November 2023, an interdisciplinary team of 41 Oxford academics met at Christ Church for a workshop exploring means of building resilient communities in sub-Saharan Africa and the opportunities for research collaboration with respect to this vitally important topic. 

Christ Church’s Dr Stephanie HirmerProfessor Malcolm McCullochProfessor Mike English and Professor Sarah Rowland-Jones were joined by researchers spanning more than five University of Oxford departments – including the Departments of Engineering, Medicine, Geography, and Governance – as well as members of the African Oxford Initiative (AfOx). All of these bodies have engaged in research into enhancing resilience in sub-Saharan communities, but until recently there has been no integration of their work, nor a forum in which researchers may share their insights. 

The workshop of 14 November, ‘Creating Flourishing and Resilient Communities in Africa’, was conceived by Dr Hirmer and Professor McCulloch with the objective of 'map[ping] ongoing projects, foster[ing] partnerships, and, through further engagement, develop[ing] comprehensive proposals eligible for the identified funding' into resilience. The project was made possible by a Christ Church Research Centre Grant awarded to Dr Hirmer. 

Interdisciplinary thinking was at the fore as a highly diverse group discussed how academics could become better allies to those in Africa driving its development.

Mike English, Professor of International Child Health

There were five questions identified for discussion at the workshop: 

  1. ‘How can we guide, influence, and prepare for the demographic transition in Africa in a way that supports climate goals?’
  2. ‘What are the links between ecology and conflict and conflict and ecology?’
  3. ‘What do we want Innovation to achieve and how do we support this?’
  4. ‘Infrastructure often doesn’t get delivered well due to governance issues. How should we address this key bottleneck?’
  5. ‘How can we promote and ensure genuine, local ownership of the agenda, not just token ownership?’

The group’s conversations were wide-ranging, addressing such issues as the challenges associated with Africa’s youthful population – especially the task of ‘managing rapid population growth by improving access to health, education, jobs, and security, while also enhancing quality of life’ – and the relationship between social and ecological resilience. 

The group’s fascinating discussions are now laid out in their Workshop Report.

The attendees of the Flourishing Africa Workshop.