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Leading development, Somali First

Khadir Abdi (left) from the SF core team with Professor Eric Herring

14 October 2015

Eric Herring is Professor of World Politics in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies. He recently won the University’s 2015 Engagement Award for his work on Somali First.

The Somali First (SF) initiative was created to promote Somali-led development, based on evidence generated by Professor Eric Herring’s Transforming Insecurity (Trinsec) project.

SF is a cross-departmental initiative working to integrate civil society networks, government and the public and private sectors to adapt and apply these findings.

The project was co-produced with Somali-led company Transparency Solutions and students from the University of Bristol, including Somali alumni. It brings together Somali civil society, government, diaspora networks, business and research to transform the process of development.

SF is changing the frame of reference for development, promoting Somali capabilities and creating strong relationships to support the design, funding and delivery of local-led projects that are integrated with global expertise.

Eric said: ‘The reaction to SF among Somalis has been overwhelmingly positive – and visceral as well as intellectual. I feel very privileged to be working with so many talented Somalis whose capacities deserve to be recognised and supported.

‘SF is innovative in bringing together Somali civil society, government, business and research and diaspora for the first time ever in this way, facilitated by a University-private sector partnership.’

Since its inception in 2014, SF and its Somali partners have received grants from the international Somalia Stability Fund (to train 60 Somali policy and academic researchers and produce 60 Somali-authored publications over the next two years) and the University’s ESRC Impact Acceleration Account totalling £500,000. In March this year, the University awarded SF ‘Strategic Priority’ status and awarded Transparency Solutions ‘Strategic Partner’ status.

The Federal Government of Somali and the Government of Somaliland, as well as the leading telecommunications companies in the Horn of Africa (Telesom and Hormuud Telecom), plus NGOs and development networks are working with the SF team.

Head of the school of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, Professor Gregor McLennan said: ‘The project represents an interwoven combination of crucial ingredients, amounting to far more than the sum of its parts. In-depth and theoretically informed research, organizational co-production, mutual cross-cultural learning processes, political dialogue in the context of a troubled and violent history of conflict: this is academic work in the service of an uplifting vision of social development.’

The SF team will receive the 2015 Engagement Award at a ceremony on 15 October.

Commenting on the award, the Engaged University Steering Group judges said: ‘Somali First has developed a model of engagement which shows genuine co-production. The diverse strands of activity, the many partnerships and the high level of impact make it an excellent example of engagement linked to research.’


Further information

Information about the University of Bristol's annual Engagement Awards is available here.