From Liverpool to Africa: An International knowledge exchange conSortium to inform policy cHAnge Promote womEn in science and enhance UK: Africa research collaborations (SHAPE).

Posted on April 08, 2024

In January, Dr Tori Sprung and Dr Komang Ralebitso-Senior along with their collaborator, Dr Ale Mayri Diaz from The University of Salford, hosted a delegation of visitors from South Africa. Professor Paola Wood (University of Pretoria), Professor Maximus Monaheng Sefotho (University of Johannesburg) and Professor Barry Andrews and Mrs Maphoko Phindile Malema (University of the Western Cape) spent a week in The School of Sport and Exercise Science. Their visit was part of a British Council Going Global Partnerships Programme grant with the objectives of i) increasing knowledge exchanges and research collaborations between HEIs in the UK and the African continent.

Delegates from three South African Universities: (Professor Paola Wood (University of Pretoria), Mrs Maphoko Phindile Malema (University of the Western Cape), Professor Maximus Monaheng Sefotho (University of Johannesburg) Professor Mark Power, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the Liverpool John Moores University and Professor Barry Andrews of the (University of the Western Cape).

A programme of activities was developed to achieve these objectives during a weeklong visit and the team are hopeful that tangible outcomes will come into fruition over the coming year. Most notably, the programme included a research networking event and that boasted representation from all nine research groups and exchanges within the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences. This event created the opportunity for colleagues wanting to establish new research collaborations, with particular encouragement for Early Career Researchers to attend, to pursue this with the African colleagues. The International LJMU team, Julia Wang and Jacqui Wright, also kindly afforded their time to this event and outlined that international relationships with the African continent is a priority area for LJMU, who currently foster very few established links across the continent. 

The team at the Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research and Knowledge Exchange Professor Kieth George’s Reception with Pro-Vice-Chancellor (LJMU Faculty of Science) - Professor Laura Bishop, and Associate Director for Diversity and Inclusion – Mrs Moni Akinsanya. Our awesome hosts from the right in the front row: Dr Tori Sprung, Dr Komang Ralebitso-Senior (Khaitseli) along with their collaborator, Dr Ale Mayri Diaz (Hermana) from The University of Salford.

With regards to the knowledge exchange arm of the project, LJMU had proposed the sharing of good practices in relation to the principles of equity, diversity, inclusion (EDI), and respect in academia. The LJMU colleagues supported well with representation from across the institution including staff network chairs and co-chairs, JMSU representatives, academic and professional services colleagues. These interactions occurred across a combination of meetings and workshops designed to showcase some of the innovative EDI practices throughout LJMU that support our students, research community, professional services colleagues and many more aspects of our people and culture. These aspects of the programme generated particularly rich discussion when comparing the diverse political and social landscapes that colleagues navigate. Great lessons were drawn from these interactions, paramount to which were the many networks that LJMU uses as vehicles to address equity, recognise and appreciate diversity as well as creating an inclusive context where everyone feels welcome. The LJMU networks are guided by principles of reciprocal mentoring, which clearly speak directly to EDI. The values of equity, diversity, inclusion (EDI), and respect resonated well with Botho-Ubuntu, which the African delegates experienced profoundly from the hosts. Spearheading the Staff Network, Mrs Moni Akinsanya emphasised their conscious approach to neurodiversity. The team encourage an adoption of a disability passport for people with disabilities so that they are spared the pain of having to recount their story repeatedly every time they need services. 

The team getting bigger with more presentations.

LJMU unreservedly supported this project which aligns to their commitment to attracting and nurturing talented people from the widest pool to encourage innovation in their research. Researchers based in the UK are most likely to collaborate with European, American, and Australian partners which overlooks expertise and talent from continents such as Africa. Such projects are vital to diversify, and in doing so enrich, our research environment and culture by establishing relationships with ‘less traditional’ collaborative partners.

As the African delegation, we believe we can contribute to the people and culture research focus from the Botho/Ubuntu principles. We also envisage the Ubuntu philosophy as an ethic of care that can support the EDI framework for health and wellbeing and expanding areas of research between the institutions in these areas. There are also possibilities for co-supervising students across our universities from interdisciplinary perspectives as well as serving as external – international examiners.

We are indeed thankful for the experience and look forward to further engagement.

Both the UK and African teams extend their gratitude to academic and professional services staff, the Central Diversity and Inclusion Team, the Student Union and members of the University and Faculty of Science Executive Teams for their support in making the week a success.


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