An interdisciplinary collaborative project working to help UK youths of Rwandan background and Rwandan youths work together to build a better future for Rwanda.

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About the project

A participatory collaborative research project that is building knowledge exchange networks between young Rwandans aged 18-25 in the UK and Rwanda. The aim is to assess how those networks might be used to address key development challenges on young people’s own terms. In doing so, the project will assess the mutual benefits of using peer youth mentoring to build knowledge, skills and identity of young Rwandans, and empower them to contribute to Rwanda’s economic growth.

The project is funded by the University with funding from the Global Challenges Research Fund; it addresses Sustainable Development Goal no. 8: Good jobs and economic growth.

The project

In the first phase of the project, which started in October 2019, 10 UK participants were selected to be partnered with young persons from Rwanda to design and implement a small social enterprise or initiative that created space or resources for supporting the wellbeing and resilience of people and communities in Rwanda.

In February 2020, selected participants were sponsored to travel to the capital Kigali for 7 days to meet up with their partners, receive training from the Aegis Trust and visit existing social enterprise projects and initiatives around Rwanda to inspire them. The aim was to assess the different motivations for engaging with one another, and to consider whether mutual forms of dialogue could build forms of solidarity and care that overcome traditional hierarchies between volunteers and recipients.

The result was two co-created initiatives that addressed two contemporary development challenges left in Rwanda in the wake of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. The first focussed on inclusive education, the second drew from participants’ shared interests in the legacies of mental health amongst survivors to design a series of workshops on improving families' emotional literacies.

Evaluation and main outcomes

This study increased understanding of how Rwandan civil society organisations can draw on the skills and knowledge of the Rwandan diaspora to address the legacies of social cohesion following the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. An original model of diaspora engagement, built on collaborative partnerships between young Rwandese in Rwanda and the UK, was developed and tested. This model enabled the conception, design and implementation of effective solutions to social cohesion challenges in Rwandan communities.

The research found that effective diaspora engagement by civil society organisations is substantially enhanced by giving second-generation diaspora youth the ability to have agency over their contributions to their countries of origin.

One concrete outcome of the research was the creation of ESOK (English for Speakers of Kinyarwanda), an embryonic social enterprise. Participants require further skills training in developing their social entrepreneurship skills, so as to then be able to put the knowledge developed through this research project into practice in developing ESOK and in other projects to benefit the Rwandan community.

Whilst participants were enthusiastic about contributing to their ancestral homeland, gaps in knowledge about entrepreneurship, investment and civil society opportunities was identified as a limiting factor.

Funding

In 2021, the project team secured funding from the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) allocation to the University to equip up to 11 participants with social entrepreneurship skills that they will use in developing ESOK, and to support a wider cohort of up to 150 British Rwandan entrepreneurs with the knowledge of investment opportunities in various economic and social sectors in Rwanda. It is anticipated that these activities will develop British Rwandan diaspora entrepreneurs as role models to empower the wider Rwandan community in the UK.

Together with Dr Niall Finneran, Dr Dickinson also secured funding from the European Union Global Diaspora Facility for the project 'Building sustainable digital capacities for youth diaspora engagement and entrepreneurship in community-owned heritage tourism: a view from Barbados, Ethiopia and Rwanda'.

Dissemination

Reports will be prepared for the project partners and academic papers will be prepared for knowledge sharing with other researchers.

Read Dr Dickinson's article about the Rwanda project on the Geography blog.

Research team

Both investigators are members of the University-led collaborative and interdisciplinary Forced Migration Network.

Project partners

  • The Aegis Trust, working to prevent genocide and mass atrocities worldwide
  • John Binama, Research Associate 

Background image: Programme participants during a workshop in Kigali