Young researchers, like Emmanuel, are shifting power by shining a light on youth civil society organisations, the work they are doing and the challenges they face. He spoke to us about what big organisations can learn from young people, how working with them can make projects more effective, and what he’s learnt from carrying out research with the Development Alternative.
Hi Emmanuel, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Hamala Emmanuel Odwori and I’m Ugandan. I come from eastern Uganda, Samia by tribe. I’m 23 years old.
How did you come to work as a youth researcher with the Development Alternative?
I applied for the research role on Facebook, where I saw the advert. I got an email to say I got it. I was excited! I was surprised, I never expected it. You know how things move in Uganda – to get a job you have to know someone, and I didn’t know anyone at Restless Development so I was surprised, in Uganda that doesn’t happen.
And how have you been finding the position?
It has been so interesting, we have learnt so much. We have learnt to interact with civil society organisations, we have learnt about the many problems and challenges they’re facing, and what they expect from the project. It has built my self-confidence, learning research skills, writing questionnaires, doing analyses, and also strengthened my teamwork, because from the beginning we have been working together with a team. I’m excited to be a part of this programme, because I’ve really learnt so much from it already.
The research has a special value, being done by young researchers, because we’re interacting with our fellow young people – we know how to talk to them and we know how to interact with them. When you talk to your fellow young person you get that deep information from them, because the challenges they are facing are the same challenges we’re also facing in this world.
Do you think your research will make a difference?
This research is going to make a big change, it is going to bring together many civil society organisations. There are many civil society organisations deep in the villages, up country where we went in Karamoja, that have not been able to interact with, or even be aware of, other organisations in Kampala, so I think this research will bring them together. It is trying to open up big donor opportunities, and also we are trying to bring out the challenges they are facing. I think it’s trying to bring an open eye to all the youth civil society organisations in Uganda.
The Development Alternative is part of a bigger move of shifting power. Did you feel, in doing the research, that you could see that shift happening, or do you think there’s still a long way to go?
I think there should be – and there will be – power transformation from the big organisations. They should allow civil society organisations to do things in the right way, in the way they think best, because these organisations that we have been talking to know more about the community. They know what is needed and what is challenging, so I think it would be better if projects are funded according to what these youth organisations think is the biggest priority.
Why do you think powershifting is important in the development context?
One major issue throughout the research has been that big international organisations and donors don’t consult on the projects that they undertake. For example, one civil society organisation told us that an international organisation wanted to bring safe water to a village, but they never consulted the young leaders in the community on how they should do it. So they built boreholes, not knowing that people go to the wells not just for water but for socialising, so the boreholes ended up being wasted.
I think what governments and big organisations should learn is that if you work with young people to implement a project, it will be the most successful one, the most impactful one. Because for example in countries like Uganda, young people are the biggest percentage of all citizens, so if it is the young leaders implementing projects in the country then such projects will have a positive impact, because they know the challenges these young people are facing, where to find them and how to associate with them. We know each other – we know how to talk to each other.
In the past young people’s voices were not being heard. Now young people are still being overlooked in some ways but there’s a change – young people like Malala, Greta have a platform. What do you think about this change? What’s the unique thing that young people bring to the world?
I think in Uganda young voices are starting to be heard. They are starting but there are still restrictions from the government. The government is still not giving them full freedom to express their views on the development of the country. But I think the time is coming, within not more than ten years, I know we shall be there. But the voices of young leaders, they have begun.