This week IDS welcomed the first cohort of Matasa Fellows to Brighton. The Matasa Fellows Network is a joint initiative by the Mastercard Foundation and the Institute of Development Studies that aims to develop a network of young African researchers with the commitment and skills to make a positive contribution to policy around youth employment in Africa.
Ten fellows were selected from 222 highly qualified applicants. Their academic training covers economics and applied econometrics, anthropology, geography, development studies, international education, women and gender studies and migration. This breadth of disciplines reflects the complexity and multiple dimensions of the youth employment challenge.
Over the course of the week the fellows will have an opportunity to look critically at different understandings of policy and the policy process, and the roles that research, evidence and politics play in the policy process. They will look at how different forms of communication – from research papers to policy briefs and blogs – can be used to influence policy processes. Finally they will plan the synthesis papers that each fellow will prepare in the coming months, and that will form the basis of an IDS Bulletin to be published in 2017. The fellows will reconvene at the University of Ghana in December to finalise their papers and prepare policy briefs.
Fundamental to the Matasa initiative is the proposition that no matter how innovative or rigorous the research, policy influence will seldom be achieved by bolting on a series of policy recommendations or a short discussion of policy implications to a research report. Rather, influence requires careful reflection, strategy, planning and tactics, and above all a nuanced understanding of the context and the politics that shape any given policy process. Unfortunately this orientation, and the skills needed to put it into action, are seldom part of PhD training programmes. This is the gap that the Matasa Fellows Network seeks to address. —
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