University of Malawi
9-11th December 1998
 Information Packet

  1. Introduction
  2. The research work that CSR has been doing in the past has mainly been client-driven. The clients have mainly been NGOs, donors and government ministries/departments in areas like collection of baseline data, monitoring of on-going projects, evaluations of completed projects and literature reviews. In addition, CSR's input in the preparation stage of the implementation of such commissioned research has been only on methodology and information analysis that has not always been completely related to current theoretical debates. In such a case, the well-experienced research fellows of the CSR have been reduced to data collectors and compilers, a task that does not require the advanced academic qualifications that the CSR staff have. This situation has resulted from the lack of CSR’s own research agenda, to some extent, which could address the current mismatch between research and development and the role social research can play in development planning process and in particular how it can assist in rational development planning.

    In August 1997, the Centre for Social Research, with financial assistance from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), organised a workshop to discuss CSR’s research agenda under the Institutional and Human Resource Development for Economic and Financial Management Programme. This was part of the CSR's broad process of introspection and consultation with a view to identifying research priorities in the social sciences within the University of Malawi and, in particular, the Centre for Social Research. The workshop was organized under the conviction that social research in Malawi has reached a critical stage where it needs to be consolidated and further developed by taking stock of the past and present research work in relation to Malawi's information requirements and, thereby, identifying priority areas where the CSR can carry out research and continue to play a role in development policy formulation and implementation process.

    It is the conviction of the CSR that there is a need to develop a strategic research programme which should aim at providing information which will be of use to policy makers and stakeholders in various national and international bodies. This will promote efficiency and effectiveness and enable informed decision making based on technical know-how in those institutions using the CSR's research output. The aim is to make research at the CSR relevant and responsive to the current data and information requirements of the institutions concerned. Furthermore, such a strategy would create an environment within CSR and the University of Malawi that would enable the full utilisation of the human skills that the University of Malawi has which have been underutilised in the past due to lack of a strategic research plan. The social science research agenda is therefore not only for the CSR, but covers critical areas which the workshop participants felt needed research by those institutions conducting research in the social sciences. It can thus be seen as representing a national research agenda in the social sciences.

    The output of this workshop was the adoption of the following research agenda or programmes given below:

    Sub-programme 1 DEMOCRACY AND GOVERNANCE: Researchable areas in the transition to and consolidation of democracy include, inter alia:-

Aid and democracy (conditionalities), comparison of democracy to other forms of government, civil service and public sector reforms, codes of practice for politics, ethnicity, capacity building for democracy, corruption and graft, crime, definition and conceptualisation of civil society, definition and concept of democracy, democracy vs. freedom, formal vs. informal processes on the transition to democracy, parliamentary and other elections and the relationships to the constituency, how Malawians understand democracy, instruments of democracy and processes of democratic awareness, socioeconomic structures, contingent dynamics and rules and dynamics of democracy, political organizations (role of political parties), power decentralisation at the grass-root level (deconcentration vs. devolution), global and regional influences to democratic development, role of NGOs, media, military, organised religious groups, etc. in democracy, role of traditional institutions, the architecture of the modern Malawi state and separation of powers.
Sub-programme 2 ACCUMULATION, ECONOMIC GROWTH AND SUSTAINABLE LIVELIHOODS: Researchable areas in this sphere include, inter alia:-
  People's adaptive strategies that lead to sustainable livelihoods at national, district, household individual levels; design and management of macroeconomic reforms; financing of accumulation, credit, savings, state market relations, access to markets, livelihood resources and credit, and attracting domestic and foreign investment; budgetary transparency and corruption, aid and accumulation; cultural measures of wealth vs. measures of economic well being (GNP, GDP, per capita); effects of ESAPs to differentiation of access to resources; regional dynamics vs. sectoral concerns; socioeconomic mobility; liberalization - producers, sellers, buyers; income generation, entrepreneurship and employment (women & men); corruption, "rent seeking" and mismanagement of natural resources; cross-border trade, contraband, drugs; population, agricultural development and the economy, and diversification, industrialization and technological development and comparative and competitive economic advantage in production and trade.
Sub-programme 3 HUMAN, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT: Researchable areas in human, social and cultural development include, inter alia:-
  Work ethic and attitude; education - formal vs. vocational adult education and early child education; dynamics of gender relations, health, nutrition and epidemics; dynamics of the extended family system - aids and poverty, socialization - the family; witchcraft and social competition; cultural dimensions to poverty, epidemics; cultural resources for peace, development; effects of differential access to health care and services on health status; health policy influences on health status; traditional medicine; financing of health, education, social services; social capital development and influence on policy, public vs. private-provision of services; youth and generational change; language, ethnicity, religious vs. culture (conflict) and national identity.
Sub-programme 4 AGRARIAN QUESTION, AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT AND LAND REFORM: Researchable areas include, inter alia:-
  Is an agrarian answer the only appropriate way out of poverty? Joint natural resources management; why land as a solution to all economic problems; land ownership structure; state policies in agriculture; labour relations in agriculture; migration and immigration; land use, population and attitudes to family planning, strategic land use and land use planing.
Sub-programme 5 ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT: Researchable areas include, inter alia:-
  Renewable energy and alternative renewable energy resources, joint natural resource management, relationships between income vs. resource degradation and poverty, management of open access and common property resources, environmental impact assessment and appraisal (public and private), pollution, public policy, environmental awareness and education, popular perception on environmental degradation, indigenous knowledge systems, donor programmes with policy influences, environment and environmental resources as free economic resources, alternative natural resources-based conflict management (ANRCM), alternative people-based natural resources management, gender, culture, religion and environmental resources and biodiversity.
Sub-programme 6 PARTICIPATORY/WISE DECISION MAKING:Researchable areas in decision-making include, inter alia:-   Participation in citizenship; building bridges of partnership; participatory policy making and implementation of policies and programmes; multi-track communications.