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African Early Career Researchers Network and Train on Pathways to Sustainability

The event “Pathways to Sustainability: A virtual workshop for African early career researchers” successfully mobilized and supported scientists from all across Africa on the Belmont Forum Pathways to Sustainability Collaborative Research Action (CRA).

Click here to view video recordings and individual presentations.

The workshop brought together 110 early career researchers from 29 countries in Africa, working on inter- and transdisciplinary projects across all of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Over the course of two days, on 9-10 September 2020, participants followed a curriculum of information, training and networking around the recently launched Pathways to Sustainability Collaborative Research Action (CRA) funding opportunity of the Belmont Forum. The workshop was organized by Future Earth in collaboration with the Future Earth Office for Southern Africa (FEROSA), the Program for Early-stage Grants Advancing Sustainability Science (PEGASuS), the Belmont Forum, the National Research Foundation of South Africa (NRF), the African Future Earth Committee (AFEC), and the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD).

The first block of the workshop provided the early career researchers with a deeper understanding of the transdisciplinary aspects of Pathways to Sustainability, and of the CRA application and consortium building modalities. Experts from the Belmont Forum and close partner organizations explained all details in French and English to accommodate both francophone and anglophone participants.

In the second block, the Nairobi-based company Well Made Strategy (WMS) trained all early career researchers in strategic communication and storytelling. This training was based on the principles outlined in WMS’ “Strategic communication for social change” handbook. Each participant got the opportunity to give a short pitch of their research, on which their peers and the WMS trainers provided feedback. The objective was to allow the researchers to do the marketing of their individual causes in a more compelling way. The training happened in small groups to guarantee one-on-one interaction, set up in ten parallel virtual meeting rooms. 

These first two blocks served as a preparation for the final part of the workshop: networking opportunities among the group and with senior scientists. Six senior scientists from various disciplines and backgrounds – covering areas such as urbanization, the food-water-energy Nexus, air pollution and atmospheric interactions, land systems, and conservation – discussed scientific questions with the early career researchers in small group settings. Three senior scientists are affiliated with Future Earth’s Global Research Projects, namely the Global Land Programme (GLP), the International Global Atmospheric Chemistry (IGAC) project, and the Integrated Land Ecosystem-Atmosphere Processes Study (iLEAPS). The intergenerational networking allowed for personal exchange as well as mentoring on securing research funds such as the Pathways CRA. After the end of both workshop days, all participants could join voluntary networking sessions to get to know each other better and make new connections.

The workshop also attracted three observers from Future Earth’s regional centres in Latin America and Asia, as well as its global early career network. The observers will explore how to replicate similar events in other regions and how to connect the effort to the global community.

Overall, the Early Careers Researchers were extremely mobilised and their level of interaction was such that new consortiums to be created for the Pathways to Sustainability Collaborative Research Action (CRA) funding opportunity of the Belmont Forum are expected. As a follow up of the event they will be further mentored and supported by Future Earth, its co-organizers, and the senior scientists and they will stay connected through several tools such as a LinkedIn group, the Future Earth Membership Portal, social media and emails. 



Title: Keynote speech: Pathways for Sustainability
Presenter: Maria Uhle Co-Chair, Belmont Forum Program Director for International Activities Directorate for Geosciences National Science Foundation

Maria Uhle – Pathways for Sustainability

Title: Introduction to the Belmont Forum
Presenter: Dr. Makyba Charles-Ayinde, NSF AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow

Makyba Charles-Ayinde – Introduction to the Belmont Forum (English)

Anne-Hélène Prieur-Richard – Présentation du Belmont Forum (French)

Title: Introduction to the Pathways CRA
Presenter: Thabo Dikgale, Professional Officer: Future Earth Regional Office for Southern Africa (FEROSA) Secretariat

Thabo Dikgale – Introduction to the Pathways CRA (English)

Sandrine Paillard – La CRA Sur Pathways: Contexte et objectif (French)

Judit Ungvari – How to Apply to the CRA (English)

Johann Muller – Comment répondre à cet appel à projets (French)

Title: Keynote speech: Use It Sustainably or Lose It! The Land Stakes in SDGs for Sub-Saharan Africa
Presenter: Cheikh Mbow, Director of Future Africa Institute at the University of Pretoria

Cheikh Mbow – Use It Sustainably or Lose It! The Land Stakes in SDGs for Sub-Saharan Africa

Makyba Charles-Ayinde – How to Keep Collaboration Alive