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11 December 2023

NRF, Fondation Botnar and HSRC launch u’Good research programme

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

Pretoria, Gauteng – Swiss philanthropic organisation, Fondation Botnar, has awarded the National Research Foundation (NRF) USD 10 million for the implementation of u’GOOD, a research programme that will study young people and their relational wellbeing in the Global South. The NRF will act as an intermediary organisation for the programme and will partner with South Africa’s Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) to administer the five-year (2023-2028) initiative. These partnering organisations launched u’GOOD on Friday, 08 December 2023 at the Science Forum South Africa event.

Research interventions will be undertaken across four critical contemporary issues facing young people – livelihoods, mental health, digitalisation, and climate change. The activities will be implemented in 12 countries from the Global South, namely Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Romania, Senegal, Tanzania, Vietnam, and South Africa.

Says Dr Fulufhelo Nelwamondo, CEO, NRF, “The implementation of the programme will be guided by the need to test and further develop relational approaches to youth wellbeing in conceptual, methodological, and operational terms. In its execution, the programme will seek to generate empirical insights into key contemporary challenges to young people’s wellbeing in urban and peri-urban environments, and how young people are addressing these”.

The programme draws on recent stimulating insights and advances in scholarship on wellbeing, specifically relational wellbeing, and centres on the experiences and capacities of young people in the Global South. Relational wellbeing, as ways of being (ontology), ways of knowing (epistemology), and ways of working (methodology), presents distinct opportunities for advancing social inquiry, understanding problems, and elevating the wellbeing of young people within contemporary societies faced by extreme economic, political, psychological, and ecological challenges disproportionate to other social groups.

Says Dr Aline Cossy-Gantner, Chief Development Officer at Fondation Botnar, “u’GOOD will strengthen conceptual, theoretical, and methodological tools and capacities relating to young people and their wellbeing.  This way scholars, practitioners and other key stakeholders working in this field can make meaningful and impactful positive changes in the circumstances and prospects of young people in urban and peri-urban settings in the Global South.”

U’GOOD will fund research projects; engage in the capacity strengthening of young people and researchers; form a Community of Practice; and support cross-cutting and integrative monitoring, evaluation, and strategic learning. The academic leadership of u’GOOD will be provided through Professor Sharlene Swartz, the Divisional Executive of the HSRC’s Equitable Education and Economies research programme, and who is a globally recognised expert on young people in the Global South. Prof Swartz will lead a group of specialist researchers from within the HSRC as thematic leads on digitalisation, climate change, livelihoods, and mental health, who, together, will provide the ecosystem necessary for the knowledge leadership of this programme.

“Current research focussed on young people in the Global South often stops at describing their adversity, rather than making the effort to identify the strategies (both individual and collective) necessary to overcome their challenges,” says Prof Sharlene Swartz, u’GOOD’s Academic Leader. “While attempts to positively impact the wellbeing of young people must be informed by these adverse realities, there are many ways in which studying young people, and learning from them with new lenses will expand our ability – as researchers and practitioners concerned with young people’s opportunities to thrive – and to do so more appropriately. The Global South thus offers important opportunities for the empirical study of the factors that affect the lives of young people; to identify and build mechanisms through which wellbeing can be promoted and protected; and to deepen knowledge and development of theory that is reflective of a more complete view of the world.”

By the end of the programme, this multi-faceted initiative will be seen to have had impact if it entrenches the relational wellbeing approach as a vibrant and useful theory and methodology to understand, assess, and advance youth wellbeing across the Global South and beyond. Impact will be felt if the programme amplifies to policymakers, researchers, and those involved in supporting diverse marginalised young people, both the challenges they face and the relational strategies they employ or could use to address these. Finally, the programme will see impact if it realises meaningful improvements in the circumstances and prospects of young people in urban and peri-urban settings in the Global South. 

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

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