Strengthening partnerships: The University of Bristol

04 Oct 2022 | By Charmaine Smith
Image of the world map

Image: Gerd Altmann via Pixabay

04 Oct 2022 | By Charmaine Smith

ACEIR and the University of Bristol’s Bristol Poverty Institute (BPI) have much in common.

The BPI undertakes multidisciplinary research on the causes, effects, and measurement of poverty around the world to inform effective policy and practice. While ACEIR has framed its work broadly around inequality, understanding the poverty dynamics of African lives forms a crucial part of the Centre’s goal to contribute to deep, multidimensional and interdisciplinary understandings of inequality. And contributing to the analytical and empirical evidence and data that are needed to help inform policy interventions and civil society action against African inequalities is one of ACEIR’s main objectives. 

While this knowledge production is in the context of different African countries, ACEIR’s research also aims to bring perspective to a global understanding of inequalities and how these can be overcome.

Another common purpose of the BPI and ACEIR is to help contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The BPI is one of seven Specialist Research Institutes established by the University of Bristol in response to the United Nations' call for universities to play their part in helping to deliver on the SDGs. The BPI is driven by SDG1: to end poverty in all its forms everywhere. 

Similarly, ACEIR is one of 13 centres of excellence established by the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) to contribute to the attainment of the SDGs – in ACEIR’s case, Goal 1: no poverty, and Goal 10: reduce inequality within and among countries.

Presenting ARUA’s strategic plan for the period 2022 – 2027 at ACEIR’s recent strategic workshop, the Secretary-General, Prof Ernest Aryeetey, explained that “ARUA has aligned itself very much to both the SDGs and the African Union’s Agenda 2063. The ambition of the network is to contribute significantly to structural transformation by providing the knowledge base to facilitate that”. This includes setting up large interdisciplinary, collaborative research projects at each centre of excellence in support of the SDGs.

It is in these contexts that ACEIR and the BPI have partnered since ACEIR’s establishment in 2018 – it was a logical follow on from many years of collaboration between the director of the BPI and Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research, Prof David Gordon, and his colleagues with researchers from the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) at the University of Cape Town (UCT). ACEIR is hosted by UCT and administratively managed in SALDRU. 

Capacity building

With Prof Gordon’s guidance, ACEIR has hosted several capacity building workshops for its research teams, such as an Advanced Poverty Research Methods Course at the end of 2021. Building on this course were the recent workshops on Advanced Training on Universal Poverty Measurement (facilitated by Prof Gordon), and Mapping and Spatial Modelling in R (presented by Prof Richard Harris from the BPI). 

At the level of individual capacity development, a member of ACEIR’s South Africa node, Bongai Munguni, is currently a participant in the Cotutelle (co-tutored PhDs) programme, Research Without Borders – a collaboration between UCT and the University of Bristol. Prof Gordon said the programme could soon expand to postdoctoral students, staff exchanges, and possibly joint appointments. 

With these and other opportunities in mind, members of ACEIR and UCT – in particularly the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research, Prof Sue Harrison – recently met colleagues from Bristol University and the BPI to explore future collaborations and capacity building exchanges. 

Research collaboration

To date there had been several instances of ACEIR researchers contributing to BPI studies – especially to bring the African perspective – or BPI researchers undertaking data analysis and other research as part of ACEIR’s stable of projects. The latter includes being part of the multi-country, multidisciplinary team of the Transforming Social Inequalities Through Inclusive Climate Action (TSITICA) project. 

A recent BPI invitation to ACEIR researchers to collaborate on a global gender equality research project is but one of the latest examples of this partnership going from strength to strength. 

Written by Charmaine Smith, ACEIR communication manager.