The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) in the UK has a brilliant scheme* for those PhD students who receive funding from them. During the course of your PhD you can apply for funding to go on an Overseas Institutional Visit (OIV) to another organisation – anywhere in the world – for up to three months.
The Institute of Poverty, Land, and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the University of Western Cape (UWC) is one of the institutes leading the way in natural resource management and agricultural research. Not only that but some of its members of staff were influential in setting up the project I have been studying for the last two and a half years for my PhD. Thus PLAAS seemed to be the perfect place for me to apply for an OIV. There I would have the opportunity to not only enhance my professional development but to disseminate my research and gain constructive feedback from policy makers, practitioners, and academics working in the same field.
The ESRC accepted my proposal a few months ago and now next week I am heading off to spend 9 weeks in Cape Town with PLAAS. During this time I will also be returning to Zimbabwe to hold workshops (alongside the Centre of Applied Social Sciences (CASS) at the University of Zimbabwe) with relevant stakeholders to discuss and critically evaluate my research findings and conclusions thus far, something I am simultaneously excited and nervous about! What if they say that all my conclusions are a load of nonesense?! All going well, I hope that the outcomes of this will feed into a South African workshop to establish dialogue on the similarities and differences in the governance of natural resource management around southern Africa. For the duration of my placement I will be working alongside PLAAS staff members to write at least one paper on the outcomes of all these discussions, and we hope a few policy briefs as well. Not only that, but I’ll be making sure some productive and active collaborative partnerships are established between PLAAS and my home institute, SRI.
I’ll be blogging about the whole experience (academically and personally) so watch this space… it’s going to be a busy few months!
*This has now been devolved to the Doctoral Training Centres funded by the ESRC.