To contribute to systemic transformation, environmental sustainability and social justice, we are working to establish a comprehensive and inclusive pan-African research network for promoting, facilitating and building capacity for transdisciplinary and transformative climate change research in Africa, in both the adaptation and mitigation spaces. To achieve this, we focus on six primary goals:

Conducting comparative, integrative, transdisciplinary research

To identify the critical leverage points that can enable transformation to more equitable and just climate-resilient pathways, we undertake comparative, integrative, transdisciplinary research at the interface of climate and development. 

Working across regions, scales, sectors, and disciplines, we prioritise research themes that have cross-regional relevance, including climate-resilient landscapes, climate governance, climate knowledge systems, sustainable energy for poverty reduction, climate action and social inequality, climate risk management, and curriculum assessments. We explore each research theme individually, while also connecting relevant findings across themes, and integrating across development, adaptation and mitigation.

Exploring innovative methods and approaches for doing research for impact

Research needs to be generative and identify opportunities for innovative options and transformations alongside communities and other stakeholders. There is still much to understand and share in terms of how best to engage multiple actors, how to provide safe spaces for open discussions, how to fully appreciate and incorporate other knowledge systems, and how to generate discussion and learning through creative, participatory processes. Alongside this, there is a need to better communicate research findings and the possible solutions that emerge from these. 

Across all our thematic research,  we work via our cross-sectoral partnerships, and build on the collective experience of our network partners, to explore new approaches and methods for tailoring research – from design to dissemination – to the needs and interests of key stakeholders.  This involves consideration of new collaborative and collective arrangements for knowledge co-production and co-learning embodied in transformative spaces, social innovations, hybrid governance formations, and transformative learning labs, amongst others. We also explore more innovative and effective ways of getting key audiences to engage with, and use, research findings.

Producing graduates who are equipped for an uncertain and changing future

Africa’s next generation of researchers, practitioners and policymakers, requires a mix of specialised knowledge and broad transdisciplinary competencies, as well as transformative leadership capacity to take initiative and effect change. As such, through research and training, African universities have a vital role to play in addressing the continent’s climate change and development challenges. 

Through the delivery of innovative interdisciplinary curricula, specialised training, and service learning, exchanges and internships – and with the ambition of achieving step changes, rather than incremental changes – we work to produce graduates who are better equipped for an uncertain and changing future. We also build the capacity of researchers (both early career and established) to work in collaborative teams, across disciplines and regions, and with society.

Using social learning processes to upskill researchers, policy makers, practitioners and communities

New coalitions of researchers and society that facilitates collaboration and co-learning is critical to addressing complex problems and transforming ‘business as usual’. 

In particular, we use social learning workshops to cross-fertilise, update and transform curricula for teaching climate change. Involving both early-career researchers and established researchers, as well as participants from varied disciplines and backgrounds, we strive to maximise inter- and transdisciplinary research potential. To improve their value and support low-emission engagement activities, we make our workshops widely accessible using digital facilities.

Influencing policy, planning and action through empowering stakeholders and local communities to consider social, financial and technological solutions

We take a multipronged approach to influence policy, planning and action. We scope out and synthesise existing knowledge, and develop research agendas and concept notes for actions that can augment this knowledge. We embed transdisciplinarity in all our research, and seek out further collaborations and partnerships that can drive change in policy and practice.  We ensure our efforts tie in with stakeholder interests and priorities.

At the international level, we engage stakeholders around the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals to inform domestic climate and energy policy via the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the  implementation of the Paris Agreement and local energy policy. Since countries across Africa are currently preparing their 2020 NDC updates and will be preparing to take stock of their respective NDCs in 2023, our capacity building and engagement activities are timeous. 

Moving further down the scale, we explore national climate and development policies and their linkages with community-level inequality and redistribution. We also promote changes to climate and wider development policy towards climate actions that maximise co-benefits with overcoming poverty and inequality.

Building a pan-African network that includes research institutions, development and boundary organisations, government, civil society, and the private sector

To build a pan-African community of practice with links to the global community, we work to grow our network to include other researchers, policy makers and practitioners in Africa and beyond. Each of our regional hubs explores partnerships and collaborations with other universities and continuously engages with government, NGOs, communities and businesses. 

Through these activities we not only aim to add African voices to the global climate change narrative, but envisage the ARUA-CD becoming a respected leader and source of inspiration for transformative solutions to the challenges of climate change and development in Africa.