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The National Research Foundation to host its annual Community of Practice Forum

From Monday, 08 May to Tuesday, 09 May 2017 the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST)’s South African Research Chairs Initiative (SARChI) will be hosting the DST-NRF Mandela Initiative Community of Practice forum which will focus on ‘Strategies to Overcome Poverty and Inequality in South Africa’.

The purpose of the Forum is to establish a platform for interaction between Chair holders, researchers, policymakers and practitioners by creating a gathering of a cross-sectoral and cross-disciplinary community of practice that is broadly concerned with developing strategies to overcome poverty and inequality in South Africa. The approach is based on Theory U designed by Otto Scharmer of MIT which is a methodology to create collective learning and action amongst multi-stakeholder communities.

The event will offer opportunities for several objectives to be accomplished, including:

  • Providing a platform for research findings to be shared with others within as well as across the theme;
  • Exploring the interconnections between themes and seeking synthesis and systemic integration opportunities where possible;
  • Exploring the research/policy interface and what it might take to support application of research outcomes into the National Development goals, across policy and practice, right through to systems and regulations for implementation; and
  • Convening meetings of eight possible communities of practice, as well as a large overarching one, testing and stretching the idea of 'community of practice', through active engagement with doing it and reflection on the opportunity.

The workshop also seeks to share and integrate research outcomes; support the development of collegiality and understanding within and across themes, and hold a quality of space in which new ideas might be generated. This requires a process that engages participants in dialogue, relationship building and shared purpose creation while retaining, and extending, intellectual depth and rigour. To accomplish this, the process is designed to include:

  • A suitably stimulating framing of the issues (e.g. 'The politics of poverty and inequality’; 'Community of practice'; 'The Policy Making process in SA – what it takes’);
  • An active co-facilitation from the Chairs to ensure that the scholarly competencies of depth of content, research method and synthesis are used to maximum benefit for the whole process;
  • A lively and interactive method that allow for sharing and thoughtful engagement;
  • Careful recording of all proceedings and harvesting of insights as they emerge to enable a variety of reporting, as required; and
  • A space to reflect on the process as a whole.

For further information on the event, requests for interviews and media queries please contact:
Palesa Mokoena
National Research Foundation
Tel: 012 481 4058
Email: palesa.mokoena@nrf.ac.za

ABOUT THE NRF: The National Research Foundation (NRF) is an independent statutory body setup in accordance with the National Research Foundation Act. Its mandate is to support and promote research through funding, human resource development and the provision of the necessary research facilities in order to facilitate the creation of knowledge, innovation and development in all fields of science and technology, including indigenous knowledge, and thereby contribute to the improvement of the quality of life of all South Africans.

Background information on the DST-NRF Mandela Initiative Community of Practice:
"Communities of Practice are defined by the National Research Foundation (NRF) as ‘research-led alliances, in which established researchers collaborate to produce solution-oriented research findings with an intention to translate research outputs into tangible outcomes, and influence policy development and implementation through communication of the necessary research findings’. A Community of Practice must be strategically aligned to government policies aimed at addressing key social challenges and problems.

A Community of Practice has emerged from within the Mandela Initiative (MI) (previously known as the C3: strategies to Overcome Poverty and Inequality Initiative), which focuses on strategies to overcome poverty and inequality in South Africa. This initiative originated as a follow-up to two Carnegie Corporation-funded enquiries into poverty in South Africa held in the 1930s and 1980s, and was originally conceived as a process ‘towards Carnegie 3’. Supported by various universities together with the National Research Foundation, the initiative includes a Think Tank of around 40 eminent South Africans, including a number of DST-NRF SARChI Research Chairs from different universities whose work focuses on poverty and inequality. Activities include research on a wide range of specific issues, action-dialogue events focused on particular issues and/or regions, a variety of forms of dissemination and communication, and other kinds of public event. These activities bring together policy makers, researchers and members of civil society organisations whose work seeks to explore feasible strategies aimed at reducing the high levels of poverty and inequality in our country.

In 2015 the Research Chairs participating in the Mandela Initiative received additional funding from the NRF. These funds support eight research projects on a range of specific issues; the projects are designed to contribute to key national debates on critically important aspects of poverty and inequality. The Chairs are attempting to use their knowledge of the broader policy milieu to help mobilise an effective national research and policy community. The objectives of this Community are to fill information gaps and interrogate the evidence, surface and collaborate on the multi-disciplinary and systemically integrated drivers of poverty and more effectively influence policy and practice. These projects focus on the themes of education, health policy, labour markets, gender and family relations, urban planning and development, land reform, rural job creation, and inequality in general.

In partnership with the DST and the NRF, the Research Chairs will host a two-day Community of Practice workshop on 8 and 9 May 2017. This forum will provide a platform for discussing the results of their specific MI research projects, and for debating their policy implications with key actors from relevant government and non-governmental agencies.

Press Release