Building Bridges is a multi-year policy-focused research and outreach programme combining fellowships, meetings and workshops, both public and closed, and a leadership development component. The programme aims to bring together influential Africans to deepen understanding around key challenges plaguing the continent and seek solutions to these issues, which often evoke competing narratives and widespread disagreement on their causes and impact.
Building Bridges offers a ‘safe’, constructive space to engage in important conversations on these topics which are either seen as intractable because of their complexity (e.g. climate change and regional trade integration) or have been side-stepped because of cultural and political sensitivities (e.g. gender inequality and corruption).
Facilitated by the Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice at the University of Cape Town, the programme’s main objective is to build bridges in order to close the gap in analysis and thinking between political actors (both within and amongst African countries) and policy research experts on Africa, both African and international.
The programme is designed to reinforce a problem-solving approach, with all events supported by independent and cutting-edge research and data on the identified theme.
Strategically underpinned by high-level practitioners and researchers who are fully immersed in the debate, Building Bridges combines a collaborative process that brings together different stakeholders around a common theme. An important component of the programme is to create new networks of expertise around particular ‘wicked problems’ that plague the continent and to deepen relationships, build trust and further understanding amongst the actors who influence policy decisions which impact Africa at international, regional and local level.
Each year stakeholders operating in the public sphere, including journalists, civil society leaders and parliamentarians, are invited to participate in an ongoing conversation with policy makers and experts around the annual theme. Six to eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa are initially targeted for participation in the programme.
In 2016, the GSDPP launched the African Economic Integration Report which consolidated findings from meetings with experts, young leaders, influential policymakers, and regional meetings held between 2014 and 2015 about this important theme.