Project Manager (Fixed Term)

Job title Project Manager (Fixed Term)

Department Social & Policy Sciences

Salary Starting from £33,797, rising to £40,322 Fixed Term, pro rata

Grade Grade 7

Placed on Tuesday 09 June 2020

Closing date Friday 03 July 2020

Reference SB7499

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GCRF-AHRC Network – Social Protection and inclusive peace in the Middle East and North Africa Region: Towards a welfare centred politics 

 University of Bath

 Summary Project Proposal 

 NOT FOR CIRCULATION

 

 Research Context

 The Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) is of global political importance and home to the most protracted conflicts in modern history. MENA societies have long burst the boundaries of the gold standard set by Weber (1946) that States must have both legitimacy and monopoly over the use of violence. Since the post-independence era (1950s-1960s), conflict in MENA has spread beyond macro-level claims on the nation (anti-imperial struggles, internal civil wars and the Palestine-Israel dispute) to encompass community-level and social justice grievances (the rise of sub-national Islamic movements and a history of street riots of which the 2011-2013 “Arab Spring” is a recent example). These myriad manifestations of conflict are compounded by sporadic Western military interventions and the key role of international development actors (like USAID, the EU and IMF) in setting MENA policy agendas. 

Yet, despite the increase in the number and intensity of armed conflicts in MENA, there remains a significant dearth of research studies that assess both how conflict has evolved, and which conflict prevention strategies are most effective (Cramer et al., 2016). As highlighted by the RCUK’s PaCCs programme, there is an urgent need to consider the multi-dimensional nature of conflict including its linkages to structural and institutional variables such as governance, social welfare and social cohesion. This corroborates with new calls in the conflict studies literature to examine underlying socio-economic inequalities and marginalisation among groups in conflict and how far their economic and social rights are included in macro-level peace agreements (Nascimento, 2011). Hence, this links conflict causally with horizontal and vertical inequalities (Stewart, 2016) – the core subject matter of social policy and social protection studies. 

Led by the MENA Social Policy Network, University of Bath, www.menasp.com (founded in 2012 and convened by Jawad, PI), in partnership with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), this proposal brings together a host of UK and international research leaders and partner organisations to undertake an ambitious programme of cross-disciplinary innovation and capability development in the governance of social policy in MENA. The distinctive contribution we will make is to introduce a paradigm shift in MENA conflict prevention research, policy and practice that will enhance the social welfare politics of Arab countries in the Southern Mediterranean region (Levant and North Africa) - our geographical focus. These are ODA compliant countries, the highest exporters of economic migration to Europe and historically, at the nexus of armed conflict in MENA. 

We argue that there is momentum for a fresh and expanded reassessment of the nature and scope of conflict in MENA which directly addresses the long-overlooked question of community-level social justice grievances and how these react against or are reproduced by macro-level political decision-making. We will advance current knowledge and practice by showing how conflict prevention and social policy governance share common concerns: how to enable communities to live cohesively and share resources equitably. It is an issue of relevance to volatile MENA countries that are now implementing austerity policies at a time when they are also mandated to produce national development plans supporting the universal social protection vision of the SDG 2030 agenda. 

By focusing on the governance of social policy as a critical arena in which to examine drivers of conflict and new pathways to peace in MENA, our proposal will make the case for a new welfare-oriented politics of conflict prevention there. This task requires amended definitions of conflict and peace to guide our proposal: “conflict is a perceived incompatibility between the goals of different actors…it can be pursued violently, by aiming to coerce one's opponent physically from pursuing their goals or to harm or destroy them. But conflict can also be pursued peacefully, such as through agreed-on rules for settling disputes…Peaceful forms of conflict can be creative and even beneficial and thus are to be encouraged…What is to be avoided is violent, destructive conflict.” (Lund, 2012:135) In addition, we understand conflict prevention as incorporating ‘activities and projects at the micro-level as well as strategies and policies at the macro-level developed or supported by third parties to prevent the outbreak, escalation or relapse of large-scale violent conflict between or within states. It includes long-term engagement and short-term actions that aim to address the underlying causes of violence or its more immediate triggers’ (Walton & Perez-Nino 2010:42). 

  

Three strands of Network Plus Activity

 Our Network is an opportunity structure for a four-year iterative and holistic programme of work operating at three key levels: (1) setting a new research agenda and advancing scholarship on social protection and conflict prevention in MENA; (2) enabling actionable social policy research for conflict prevention and peace-building in MENA through interdisciplinary problem-solving and active policy learning; (3) embedding our partnerships in an ethos of equitable North-South collaborations with potential to become a model of good practice for future AHRC networks. The paradigm shift outlined in Table 1 informs our pathway to impact and theory of change. It will also be mapped onto the three strands of work. Our theory of change will entail a framework for actionable research that will integrate our three strands of work as follows: 

 1. Scoping, research leadership and partnership development activities: Co-Is Jones, Walton, Nashwan, Al-Husban and Al-Khateb will oversee this work strand. Building on the existing work of the MENASP network (www.menasp.com) and with the support of the current AHRC development award we will build sustainable partnerships between UK researchers and international partners in the MENA region and beyond as evidenced by the range of international partner organisations, Co-Is and advisors involved in this proposal. We will work together to identify research needs and opportunities and co-design research agendas to be explored through devolved grants and knowledge exchange calls. The network management team will demonstrate intellectual leadership and orient the research agenda by conducting Proof of Concepts as highlighted above. With the support of a dedicated project manager and the extensive expertise of our international project partners, we will undertake and develop equitable partnership working starting with the planning workshop in Dubai (see timeline below), annual project review meetings, joint co-authored outputs and participation at the fifth bi-annual MENASP network conference (see Gantt chart). The Co-Is will also lead seminars and workshops to explore and develop priority challenge areas, for example, Forrester-Jones and Nashwan will lead an ethics training seminar in year 1 (at IFI, Beirut); Jawad, Jones and Walton will lead a social policy governance workshop in year 2 (at CREAD, Algeria). In year 1, Co-I Barsoum will produce a plan for mentoring clinics to include early career researchers (ECRs) throughout the project activities. Our partner organisations will also host visiting researchers and use the network to explore joint projects and outputs together. The AHRC development award has already set in motion a stakeholder mapping exercise and full evidence base review of conflict prevention in MENA which will support fine-tuning of research goals in 2020. 

 2. Funding calls for innovative projects/activities: Co-Is Kivimäki, Aslam, Yassin and Barsoum will oversee strand (ii) to ensure wide dissemination of commissioning calls. Barsoum will oversee peer mentoring in the Network and for grant-holders. We will use the first planning meeting in Dubai to review our project objectives and co-design funding calls. Based on the innovative research agenda identified so far and the new forms of data and methodologies we will further develop, we anticipate the following types of calls: (1) academic research to advance scholarship; (2) academic placements or exchanges including for ECRs to be hosted at Bath University and any of the partner organisations in this proposal as suitable; (3) training and capacity-building projects for civil society groups and government officials which may include demonstration projects for scalability, transferability or effectiveness of social protection-based conflict prevention measures; (4) knowledge exchange events such as conferences, workshops and seminars. We will use Network planning meetings to co-design the calls and in the interest of remaining responsive, we have organised our work plan to accommodate three funding calls over the lifetime of the project. The commissioning process will be organised from the University of Bath and incorporate an online application platform using the Bristol online survey tool https://admin.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/accounts/login/?next=/. It will be available in both English and Arabic. We will put in place a comprehensive due diligence protocol overseen by Co-I Forrester-Jones with support of Nashwan and Jones and encourage the full range of project outputs from devolved grants to include enhanced capabilities, policy briefings, journal articles, websites and digital resources, training materials, public engagement, exhibitions and creative outputs.

 3. Network legacy and synthesis of commissioned grants: Jawad, Jones and Ait Mansour will oversee strand (iii) synthesis planning efforts. Our Network’s embeddedness in the existing www.menasp.com website provides evidence of our excellent legacy prospects. Network plus funding is the logical next step in the trajectory of our network to consolidate its pioneering research ambitions and activist social policy agenda through: (a) commissioning grants that support the next generation of MENA conflict-prevention researchers, (b) governance-oriented capacity-building for sustainable peace, (c) cutting-edge e-learning resources, (d) new spaces for cross-comparative conflict prevention knowledge exchange. Our theory of change incorporates a major spin-off output which is to track the impact of our network in delivering actionable research and equitable partnerships. This will serve as a model for future AHRC networks. We have already embarked on network analysis research using a database of MENA social policy experts hosted on the www.menasp.com website. We have incorporated into our workplan knowledge exchange events to disseminate the synthesis of proof of concepts, as well as the commissioned research. Our partner organisations will play a key role in the theory of change and pathways to impact by supporting research synthesis efforts and dissemination to stakeholders in MENA. Digital activities will include a self-paced e-learning course (in Arabic), two international webinars and an on-line forum to support mentoring. We will develop a library of filmed interviews based on proof of concepts and selected commissioned projects. 

 

Outcomes, Outputs and Dissemination

 Key outcomes from this network are: (1) maximising the impact of Co-I-led and commissioned research in MENA that is co-designed and builds on community-based partnerships and localised expertise on preventing conflict and building peace; (2) fostering the sharing of learning across innovative prevention and peacebuilding research projects and testing the feasibility, scalability, transferability and effectiveness of different approaches across diverse fragile MENA countries; (3) bringing conflict prevention research more centrally into sustainable development planning and programming through the apparatus of social policy governance and its affiliated concept, social protection. Academic outputs by the network management team will include: (1) up to 10 journal papers based on proof of concepts produced by PI and Co-Is for publication in high impact journals such as Journal of Development Studies, World Development, Journal of Social Policy; (2) a two-volume research manuscript submitted to a reputable UK publisher bringing together all the major findings of the funded research with a clear theoretical framework setting out the paradigm shift proposed by the Network. Digital outputs will include a self-paced e-learning tool on social policy and conflict prevention modelled on the socialprotection.org website and developed by the partner, IPC-IG (see letter of support). This will be based on synthesis of the major project findings; the software piloted in 2023 and final product delivered in 2024. We will also hold two international webinars to disseminate Network objectives and findings. In terms of dissemination, our project partners have committed to supporting the Network to maximise societal impact (see letters of support). We will put in place a communications plan at the start of the project with creative use of infographics, newsletters and podcasts.  

 

Timetable

 Year 1: Scoping and planning: 2nd Project planning/review meeting to include partnership building activities for advisors and management team; 2nd consultation to set up due diligence protocol; establish mentoring and peer networks; dissemination and communications planning (with project partners), research ethics training seminar (IFI, Beirut); start of Co-I proof of concepts; launch of first commissioning call (combination of small up-to-£30,000 and large up-to-£150,000 depending on co-design decisions made at planning meetings); plan for e-learning course with IPC-IG

 Year 2: 1st phase synthesis, start of commissioning: Annual project progress meeting to include mentoring clinic and peer network meetings; dissemination of Co-I proof concepts with key stakeholders; social policy governance training seminar (CREAD, Algeria); commissioned grants review meeting at Bath University; international webinar event in English with Arabic translators introducing the Network; launch of second commissioning call; filmed interviews and podcasts of Co-I and new grant-holder research; preparation of e-learning course; planning for impact evaluation report and mid-term analysis of theory of change.  

 Year 3: Commissioning and continued synthesis, legacy planning: Annual project progress meeting with mentoring clinic and devolved grants review meeting; MENASP bi-annual conference to include synthesis meeting of Co-I proof of concepts, devolved grants and Policy Lab event with community groups (Mohammed V University, Morocco), launch of third research commissioning call; filmed interviews of researchers; press-releases; pilot e-learning course.

 Year 4: Synthesis and legacy: Final project progress meeting; final synthesis event at Pall Mall (University of Bath premises, with ODI, London) to include getting published and writing up workshop for ECRs; webinar of synthesis for policy-stakeholders; launch of all proof of concept outputs; final delivery of self-paced e-learning course and completion of Network impact report.

The closing date for this job opportunity has now passed, and applications are no longer being accepted for this position

Further details:
The University of Bath is an equal opportunities employer and has an excellent international reputation with staff from over 60 different nations. To achieve our global aspirations, we welcome applicants from all backgrounds.