AISA writing retreat for emerging scholars
Summary: Post-AYGS 2017 Writing Workshop
On 20-21 November 2017 the Africa Institute of South Africa (AISA) organised a writing retreat for emerging scholars held at the HSRC Building in Pretoria. Indeed, as the organisers and participants, we are indebted to HSRC and its AISA division for supporting this programme which is consistent with the South African Government’s new growth path of National Development Plan (NDP) to accelerate evidence-based innovation and support “to leave no one behind” at the local, national, and regional contexts. The purpose of this structured writing event was to give dedicated writing time to emerging scholars for progressing their writing manuscripts in a supportive, non-surveillance environment. Our goal to advance and strengthen capacity for knowledge production and formulating evidence-based proposals to contemporary social problems guided the process. Thus, the programme allowed participants a distraction free setting to write, and the opportunity to speak to and seek cross-disciplinary feedback from other writers and facilitators.
The participants consisted 22 members (10 females and 12 males ranging from master’s degree through post-doctoral level) with manuscripts developed from multidisciplinary perspectives with a shared focus on “re-imagining youth, leadership and gender for sustainable development.” They were interns, students, and young lecturers involving – four (4) from AISA, four (4) from University of Fort Hare, three (3) from University of Venda, two (2) from Limpopo University, one (1) from University of North West Mafikeng, two (2) from Unisa, and one (1) from Stellenbosch University. In addition to five (5) authors from the region (including Botswana, Cameroon, Kenya, and Zimbabwe). The facilitators included Sylvester Maphosa and Vuyo Mjimba (HSRC), Rankoana Sejabaledi (University of Limpopo), Lindiwe Dhlamini (UNDP), Lucille Nonzokwazi Maqubela (Mpumalanga University), and Alphonse Keasley (University of Colorado, USA).
Writing with peers in a writing group can increase one’s output, improve writing, boost confidence in writing, and heighten motivation to write. Indeed, evidence strongly attests that people writing as part of a community of writers are more likely to learn faster about the conventions and challenges of writing, to support each other at times of blockage and to demystify the process of writing by sharing each other’s successes and failures.
At the final wrap up and discussion, we got participants to discuss how the two days went with each other and review of their own progress. The young author participants expressed being inspired to learn continually from each other to boost their own writing progress and become more confident in academic writing for publication.
Tsholofelo “A truly inspiring two days … instilled a sense of well-being and opportunity to learn and explore…and the confidence that I have now…”
Lucky “The venue, good food, tea, scones …, and sense of fellowship … so pleasant…”
Matthew “When I came here I thought I had completed writing my paper …was wondering why we are here… today I realise how incomplete I was with regards to editorial issues, synergising the paper… and linking the Agenda 2030 and AU Agenda 2063…”
Bernard “…the presentation of Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063 helped me to appreciate the overlap between the models and a sense of understanding local development initiatives in my country and context of my research writing…”
Abigirl “… the workshop was an eye opener for everyone, because it taught certain methods I will put to use in my PhD journey…”
Nompe “… writing together and getting feedback and guidance was ideal; although the auditorium was cold and hot at times, still we were not deterred… together with facilitators and united, it really gave sense of momentum of ‘we are all in this together’ mood …”
Anele “…writing is not easy… I tend to put off writing in favour of other research-related activities… and having an environment where there is strong pressure to just sit down and write was very useful…”
 See Dube, B., Maphosa, S.B., Mershon, C., & Miner-Romanoff, K., 2017. Innovation in Conducting Writing Retreats for Academic Staff in Higher Education. South African Journal of Higher Education 31(2): 4-21. Also refer to Moore, S., 2003. Writers’ Retreats for Academics: Exploring and Increasing the Motivation to Write. Journal of Further and Higher Education 27(3): 333-342.