In the case of the African Universities' Research Approaches (AURA) programme, this process was further complicated because the programme has a design that is co-creative, hence aspects of programme design are left open to be developed in collaboration with participating partners. This more open approach in the programme design made it challenging to sell as an idea to university management, and potential beneficiaries, who were not so familiar with a co-creative approach. This led them to perceive the co-creative approach as ‘lack of clarity’ in the design at the onset which was likely to pose a greater risk.
Establishing internal collaboration
The first step in taking the AURA collaboration forward internally was to establish, in June 2015, a bridge by having the Strathmore Learning Teaching Services Department (LTS) and the Research Office as the key drivers of the programme.
LTS has a mandate on faculty development and this was a key pillar in the AURA application process. The Research Office has a mandate on research management and therefore plays a key role in contributing to the achievement of the strategic goals of the University in the area of Research.
The AURA programme provided an opportunity to establish an internal collaborative venture between the two departments and, in effect, to situate the programme at the confluence of teaching and research objectives.
The concept of the ALIRT team is a collaborative one, bringing on board the academia as well as critical service departments of the Library and IT. This collaborative platform between Strathmore project coordinators and the ALIRT team added credibility to the inception efforts for implementing the AURA programme. The visit by the AURA team for the institutional assessment also provided an opportunity for advocacy with the high level university management team.
The university management and the participants in the AURA programme developed high expectations from a collaboration that has the prospect to break new grounds in teaching and research at Strathmore. The potential benefits of the AURA programme are reflected in these internal collaborations as well as through cordial external engagement with the consortium partners for the programme.
Stephen Ng’ang’a and Cavin Opiyo are based at Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya.