The ASAUK Writing Workshop programme has been in existence since 2009. The motivation behind the workshops is to offer mentoring, in particular to early career scholars in the humanities and social sciences, who are based at African institutions. This initiative was in part a response to the Nairobi process, an ongoing series of discussions, facilitated by the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the British Academy, around Africa-UK research collaboration and the provision of researcher support in African higher education (http://www.africadesk.ac.uk/pages/nairobi-process). The writing workshops also aim to contribute to wider initiatives that have as their aim the decolonisation of knowledge production.
The mentoring takes the form of group sessions that aim to demystify publishing models and provide information about international journals and their protocols. In addition, senior scholars and journal editors read and respond to pre-submitted papers from early career scholars, who then receive intensive one-on-one feedback on their papers with the aim of finalising these papers for eventual submission to academic journals.
The writing workshops rely on the generosity and cooperation of colleagues at universities in Africa, and depend on the maintenance of equal partnerships with Africa-based research networks and academic associations. Editors from international journals, and senior scholars based in the UK and at African institutions, generously provide their time and labour to the workshops. There is evidence that, with sustained and long-term engagement from journal editors and our collaborating partners, a good number of papers from the workshops make it through peer review and are published in journals.
The aim of the workshops is to build intra-African research networks and to mentor early career scholars. The most important outcome of the writing workshops is to change publishing patterns that privilege northern-based scholars and institutions. The ASAUK is committed to the decolonisation of knowledge and knowledge production about Africa, and it realises that this can only happen on the basis of equal and collaborative relationships with Africa-based academics and journal editors.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who can apply to host or collaborate on an ASAUK writing workshop?
Senior scholars who are members of ASAUK, and journal editors working for journals related to Africa, are invited to apply for funds to arrange a workshop, through the British Academy Writing Workshop scheme. Workshop organisers typically invite editors of international journals to participate in their Writing Workshops. To identify relevant journals and editors, organisers usually draw on contacts from their own disciplines and careers.
In order to save costs, the ASAUK encourages workshop organisers to ask participating international journals to fund the larger part of their editors’ participation costs, usually their visa costs and international travel. This is a delicate topic and requires both tact and the preparedness to negotiate. It is often easier for editors of journals who have access to some of the income produced by the journal for the publisher, either directly or as an administrative allowance, to bear these costs.
ASAUK encourages workshop organisers to support international editors by taking on (some of) their travel and accommodation costs in-country, and by including them in the arrangements made for all workshop participants. Local knowledge is often crucial in the success of a workshop, and an important determinant in the lasting yields of the work done at, and following, the workshop.
Can I get financial assistance for my conference by applying for a workshop grant?
The British Academy Writing Workshop funds cannot be used to organise conferences, but ideally supplement existing meetings or conferences. When conferences are hosted by Africa-based intellectual networks or scholarly associations, this is regarded as an ideal opportunity to support and strengthen these initiatives and associations by arranging a mentoring and writing workshop before such a conference.
How large are the workshop grants, and are there restrictions to how I am allowed to use these funds?
The funds allocated to a workshop are generally in the region of £4 000 – £5 000, most of which is meant to be spent at the host institution. A general budget allows for up to £1 000 in local travel costs for writing fellows and participants to travel to the workshop; up to £2 500 for accommodation for up to 20-25 participants; and a further £1 000 for food and refreshments. We are aware that budgets may differ according to location. Thanks to the commitment of scholars of Africa around the world, writing workshops have achieved significant impact with very modest budgets. We also urge organisers to hold workshops in countries that do not charge prohibitive visa fees to Africans from elsewhere.
Workshop organisers need to submit a budget to the ASAUK, stating clearly which funds will be contributed by the ASAUK and which funds by participating organisations (HE institutions, journals, etc.).
The Writing Workshop programme is supported by a number of funders, including several Africanist journals to whom we are deeply grateful. However, the majority of our funding comes from the British Academy, which accepts applications for funding in the following financial year by the preceding February. As a result, workshop details, including budgets, should be submitted 6-18 months before the planned workshop.
Workshop organisers do not normally claim an administrative allowance for themselves, but they can pay such an allowance to someone whom they employ in a supportive capacity. Ideally this person would be knowledgeable not only about the subject and intellectual debates, but also have local knowledge and be able to advise on venue choices and the arrangement of food and accommodation. ASAUK encourages workshop organisers to employ graduate students and young academics, for whom the organisation of a writing workshop will also be an opportunity to develop their professional skills.
All expenses must be carefully documented, and must be confirmed by a signed and dated receipt for goods or services rendered.
Do I have to work with a partner or existing network at an African institution?
The ASAUK has in the past organised writing workshops for early career scholars which were targeted at Africa-based colleagues visiting UK institutions. However, most writing workshops are organised in collaboration with colleagues at African institutions. It is a requirement of all writing workshops that local collaborators are recognised as equal intellectual partners and are involved in all decision making.
What does a workshop normally entail?
Each workshop needs to include at least the following sessions:
(1) Registration (including filling in relevant columns of Data Collection Sheet)
(2) Introduction of journal editors, and an overview of the review processes of different journals.
(3) Hands-on discussion of papers, either 1-to-1 or in a small group (not more than 4-5 papers per editor). Generally mentors devote ¾ to 1 hour per paper on average. Mentors are also expected to remain available to workshop participants after the completion of the workshop, and generally would agree to read revised papers again and to send, or preferably to bring on a memory stick, articles that have been recommended to the workshop participants and writing fellows.
(4) Feedback session (including filling-in of BA questionnaire)
What protocol should I follow to advertise a writing workshop?
The Call for Papers, inviting scholars to apply for workshop attendance, should build on the template suggested by the British Academy (available from firstname.lastname@example.org). It needs to address the following issues:
(1) who is eligible to apply;
(2) what materials (usually including a current CV and a draft article) are required from applicants, by what deadline the material is required, and where it should be sent to;
(3) where and when the workshop will take place (optional: include a provisional programme);
(4) where possible/ relevant, and especially where participating journals have not suggested themes, some information about participating journals to give applicants an idea of the kind of articles they are looking for.
How do I apply for funding to host a writing workshop?
Please send a proposal of the workshop to the ASAUK Workshop Officer, Carli Coetzee (email@example.com). This application should include a detailed budget, as well as an outline of the theme and where applicable the conference to which the workshop will be attached. You also need to include the names and email addresses of the Africa-based partners, and to indicate how the candidates for the workshop will be selected.