Improving SOMOS’ Ability to Navigate Esfuerzo

In less than two weeks, I will be back in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic for the second time this year. I am going with two other members of SOMOS and from August 8-16 we will be working on four main objectives related to community leadership, social inclusivity, access to energy, and improved health (my next blog post will describe these ‘protocols’ in greater detail).

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Calling all map nerds!

A month into my fellowship at CERSGIS in Accra, Ghana, we are hitting the ground running. We are beginning to lead professional trainings in GIS (Geographic Information Systems) at the National Development Planning Commission, which will be the main focus of the rest of our time here in Accra. GIS is a digital system that allows the user to perform advanced spatial analysis and ultimately create maps that make what otherwise might be overwhelmingly complicated data more accessible to policymakers, planners, researchers, or consumers.

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A Few Final Thoughts

When we first came here it was just the three of us: Clay, Emily, and me. We came from diverse backgrounds and we brought different skills to the table. We were a great team. However, we became stronger both as a team and individually as we were exposed to our work and research at Instituto Mora.

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The End of the Road

What a close to my final week in Uganda! From Monday to Wednesday, I was traveling around the rapidly-expanding city of Hoima and Lake Albert, which are in the western part of Uganda, to attend a conference on monitoring environmental compliance in the oil and natural gas sectors. This conference brought representatives from dozens of several civil society organizations together with government and oil/natural gas sector officials in an attempt to ensure that all parties involved, most especially marginalized groups, benefit from the recent discovery of Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest untapped oil deposits. However, it often appeared that industry groups and the government sought to limit criticism of extractive activities and their negative impacts on Uganda’s citizens. In our guided tours, we saw much of this. Of the 3 sites that we visited, on buses paid for by Tullow Oil, 2 had been inactive for months and the only active site, Kingfisher Field, we viewed from a distance. This gave valuable insight into some of the issues that Transparency International staff face in promoting an open, productive dialogue between citizens, civil society organizations, government officials, and private industry.

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Semi-Independent Research Projects

Over the past week, Robert and I have moved away from lecture-based instruction or guided exercises and have started to assist workshop participants with semi-independent research projects. With each of the participants now able to use ArcGIS to create maps centered around pre-determined themes (usually foreign aid or violent conflict), we felt that allowing workshop participants to make maps that were of interest to them would help to bring the trainings full circle and ensure that they would be able to apply the skills they have been practicing. We also broke up the trainings and created a schedule so that we could meet with each of the participants one-on-one to develop their ideas and make sure that all workshop participants were comfortable working with the software independently.

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