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Building Resilience through Education

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BRTE (Building Resilience through Education)

Reporting period: 2017-11-01 to 2019-10-31

Building Resilience Through Education (BRTE) is funded through the Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, Research and Innovation Staff Exchange (RISE) programme with grant agreement number 778196. The duration of the action is 48 months as of 1 November 2017. BRTE brings together partners from academia, the private sector and the non-governmental organization sector to find innovative ways to strengthen the resilience of communities affected by recurring disasters. While University College Dublin (UCD ) is the coordinator, the project has four beneficiaries from Europe and one consortium member from Ethiopia. One year into the project, a new partner is added as a beneficiary from the academic sector to the project.
BRTE has its origins in an evaluation of the impact of Concern Worldwide’s twenty-five year engagement in the Wolaita zone of Ethiopia which was conducted by University College Dublin’s Centre for Humanitarian Action in collaboration with Wolaita Sodo University. The evaluation found that despite significant improvements in communities’ capacities to both absorb recurring disasters and to adapt their livelihoods based on the experience of recent disasters, they remain extremely vulnerable to recurring climatic stresses. Thus, there was an urgent need for a novel approach that could transform the capacity of exposed communities, which can go beyond supporting the mere absorption of or adaptation to recurring shocks.
Due to the protracted and recurring nature of climatic shocks and stresses in that area, there was a need for a paradigm shift in the way aid is delivered to meet immediate life-saving assistance while working towards ensuring Sustainable Development Goals. Accordingly, humanitarian action and development stakeholders need to search out new ways to engage with vulnerable African communities to achieve greater societal transformation and work towards a more equitable agenda for humanity.
The BRTE partnership identified education as a key influencer to bring about this transformative change. The hypothesis is that local intelligentsia in Wolaita Sodo University can partner peers in Europe, the private sector (in Ethiopia and Europe) and the non-governmental organization to accelerate change and bring about socio-economic transformation. Consequently, the BRTE project brought together partners from academia, the private sector and the non-governmental organization sector to find innovative ways to strengthen the resilience of communities affected by recurring disasters.
With this in mind, the aim of BRTE is to build the capacity of Wolaita’s educational institution in pursuit of the following objectives:
1. To build the requisite critical infrastructure to enable resilience education and research;
2. To establish an educational platform that will build human capital and transform livelihoods;
3. To develop research and innovation capacity that will radically promote social and economic well-being.
The activities performed by beneficiaries in the last 24 months (1st of November 2017 to 31st of October 2019) include:
WP1 – Ethics: Templates of the informed consent forms and information sheet are secured and ready for submission upon request; copies of ethics approvals for the research with humans have been obtained, kept on file and are ready for submission to REA upon request; and, copies of opinion or confirmation by the competent Institutional Data Protection Officer have been obtained, kept on file and are ready for submission to REA upon request.
WP2 – Critical Infrastructure: A strategic document that enhances educational infrastructure in WSU has been prepared; a conceptual Framework for Building Resilience through Education has been developed; and, the interim report on the implementation of proposed strategies was developed.
WP3 – Innovative Education Sharing: Established a qualifications framework that will be used between the two universities to enable awarding of joint degrees; a pathway programme is established; and, WSU staff have developed various business and innovation modules
WP4 – Research and Innovation: Head of incubation and business development unit of WSU developed a strategy that presents options to build an innovation hub in WSU; and a good number of applied researches have been undertaken by the joint PhD students of UCD-WSU.
WP5 – Knowledge Sharing and Dissemination: The project launched its project website (http://www.brte.eu); and news coverage was given to twelve major events of the project; dissemination and outreach strategy of the project was developed and implemented.
WP6 – Project Management:Building relationship; getting ethical documents from consortium members; kick-off meeting; and, understanding the strength, weakness, opportunities and threats in the area of critical infrastructure, innovative education sharing, research and innovation were undertaken; the mid-term review meeting was held; and, the project management team is continuously meeting with the project beneficiaries to manage risks, catch up delaying activities, enhance mobilities, and achieve the overall objective of the project.
Work Package 1 -Ethics Requirements – the experience of the BRTE Programme in satisfying best standards in ethical requirements has added little to the state-of-the-art of social research per se, however, in an era of growing suspicion around the rationale for European HEIs engagement in third country research it has paved the way to reduce the bureaucracy in acquiring permissions for ethically sound research.
Work Package 2 – Critical Infrastructure – the BRTE Programme has adopted a ‘holistic approach’ to sharing knowledge and learning. In a move from the conventional approach to HEI internationalisation that focuses on research and/ or education sharing, the BRTE Programme began by analysing the ‘enablers’ that facilitate the sharing of research and education.
Work Package 3 – Innovative Education Sharing - The European HEIs involved in the BRTE Programme has embraced modularisation very much in line with the educational philosophy that has evolved from the Bologna process.
Work Package 4 – Research and Innovation - this work package is demonstrating significant innovation both in ‘product’ and ‘process’. There are 13 PhD studies being progressed each governed by the minimum criteria of a PhD study namely; that they will contribute to knowledge. Probably more importantly, in the interest of the RISE philosophy, is the innovative process to HEI internationalisation and the engagement of staff across the consortium members to carry out joint research to the mutual benefit of all members. A further significant development that emerged from the BRTE programme is the need for reform in terminal degrees in Ethiopian higher education. The research being undertaken by the BRTE teams is very much applied in nature. They are addressing the real-world problem and frequently engage across disciplines. While the focus is to heighten the educational levels of university staff, the studies seek to address societal issues that will contribute to building resilience of communities and individuals in Wolaita.