The Writing for Impact Workshop trained China-Africa scholars to improve the impact of their writing, by turning academic research into formats more commonly read by general audiences and policymakers. The aim of the workshop was to help bridge the gap, focused on translating academic work into policy briefs, op-eds, and long-form articles. Given the often-controversial nature of China-Africa engagements, there is a level of urgency in getting current research published in a more accessible and time-sensitive manner.
The 2-day Workshop trained China-Africa scholars from Pretoria, (South Africa), Bulawayo, (Zimbabwe) Kampala, (Uganda) and Abuja, (Nigeria) as well as Vancouver, (Canada) New Delhi, (India) Macau, and Hong Kong (China), to improve the impact of their writing, by turning academic research into formats more commonly read by general audiences and policymakers, such as policy briefs, op-eds, and long-form articles, to be more accessible and reach wider audiences in a timely fashion, leveraging on social media platforms to circulate the work and engage discussions.
The Workshop began with Welcome remarks presented by Dr Yoon Jung Park (Georgetown University and CA/AC), followed by Bongiwe Tutu (Wits Africa-China Reporting Project). The writing scholars thereafter introduced themselves, as well as briefly outlining their research work.
Session one tackled the challenge of converting academic writing for broader public audiences, exploring the importance of dissemination of information, and the various ways in which this impact can be improved. The session discussants were Dr. Cobus van Staden (China Global South Project), Dr. Lina Benabdallah (Wake Forest University), in conversation with Dr. Yoon Jung Park (Georgetown University and CA/AC).
Session two presented China-Africa thought leaders, experienced in the scholarship of academic and public facing writing. This session explored ways in which scholars can bridge the gap between academic and public audiences. The session discussants were Dr. Emmanuel Matambo (University of Johannesburg), Dr. Yu-Shan Wu (University of Pretoria), Dr. Lina Benabdallah (Wake Forest University), who shared their individual experiences, backgrounds and interests within Africa-China relations, as well as essential tools to developing ones academic writing for impactful public engagement. The session moderator was Dr. Cobus van Staden (China Global South Project).
The third session explored avenues which reporting on Africa-China relations is advanced through the media and journalism space. The session discussants were Dr. Cobus van Staden (China Global South Project) and Bongiwe Tutu (Wits Africa-China Reporting Project) who highlighted the impact and contribution brought by each of their projects, in providing a platform for not only researchers and journalists to advance their knowledge and capabilities in understanding and communicating on Africa-China relations, but further enabling the platform for public engagements and dialogues with policy makers, and other stakeholders. The session was moderated by Dr. Lina Benabdallah (Wake Forest University).
The fourth session presented the perspective of the media, exploring the views and tools presented by media owners and editors, in terms of what is required in media publications. The session discussants were Simon Allison, (The Continent), Jabulani Sikhakhane (The Conversation Africa), Shannon Tiezzi (The Diplomat) and Dr. Cobus van Staden (China Global South Project). The panelists shared key tools and information on writing and publishing for each of their media platforms, the key drivers to a good Op-Ed piece, and understanding the dynamics and complexities within audiences. The discussion further explored the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies on the writing, credibility of media reports (fact-checking), as well as the impacts to the business of media. The session moderator was Bongiwe Tutu (Wits Africa-China Reporting Project).
The last session of the first day of the Workshop engaged the scholars of China-Africa relations. The participants were coming from various parts of the continent, from Pretoria, (South Africa), Bulawayo, (Zimbabwe) Kampala, (Uganda) and Abuja, (Nigeria) as well as from Vancouver, (Canada) New Delhi, (India) Macau, and Hong Kong (China). The eight participants introduced their topics, beginning with their elevator pitches, target media outlets, and target audiences. The session was moderated by Dr. Yoon Jung Park (Georgetown University and CA/AC). See below for more information on the scholars' profiles and reporting topics.
The second day of the Writing for Impact Workshop comprised of practical extensive writing segments, providing the scholars the necessary skills and information to the essentials of converting their academic pieces. The academic scholars were facilitated by the Workshop trainers, Dr. Lina Benabdallah, Dr. Yoon Jung Park, Dr. Cobus van Staden and Bongiwe Tutu.
The first session explored writing formats and platforms, the scholars were introduced to the Monkey Cage, The China Global South, and Axios Methods/Formulas, and the various requirements and skills necessary to adopt. The second session workshopped the participant pitches, the scholars worked on developing their news hooks, main takeaways and presented to the rest of the group for feedback and recommendations. The second session heard the scholar pitches, scholars worked on their research, to assess counterpoints and obtain the bottom line which would enhance its conversion into a publishable report. Further into the third session, scholars presented their draft reports, news hooks and main arguments, receiving feedback from facilitators and peers.
Beyond writing and publishing, scholars need to engage the public and stakeholders in order to increase the the impacts of the research findings. This session explored the various ways which scholars can enhance the reach of their reports, by engaging online platforms. Dr. Cobus van Staden (China Global South Project) presented tools and tips to strategizing and implementing media impacts, with practical examples to blogging, tweeting and participating in, and managing podcast discussion.
During the final workshop session, scholars presented their revised draft reports, which were discussed with the workshop facilitators and participants. Thereafter, a review discussion on the workshop and its main takeaways was held.
The participants were each selected based on meeting the requirements which were presented in the call for applications for this Workshop.