Institute of Applied researh and Community outreach
In 2013, the Catholic University of South Sudan (CUofSS) established the Institute of Applied Research and Community Outreach (IARCO) to help build the research capacity of staff and students and contribute to the substantive growth of the CUofSS. IARCO aims to become an independent, relevant and advanced research body that is firmly rooted in society and contributes to a better understanding of both past and contemporary issues and is pertinent to the rapidly changing context of South Sudan.
The objectives of the Institute of Applied Research and Community Outreach are:
- To invest in the future of South Sudanese research that can compete at a regional and international level through the development and strengthening of high quality research amongst the staff of the CUofSS and the preparation of a young generation of researchers.
- To promote in-depth and advanced analysis of diverse issues in the field of social, economic and educational, and agricultural and environmental sciences.
- To integrate research and teaching and inform and support the development of the curriculum of the Catholic University of South Sudan with contemporary, informed and contextualized research, literary reviews and position papers.
- To stimulate empirical and analytical research that is grounded in valid methodologies and theories and to foster innovative and participatory and action-based research.
- To promote strong awareness of scientific integrity and ethics and foster strong levels of impartiality, transparency and independence.
- To stimulate interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary cooperation and facilitate intellectual exchange and the development of collaborations and partnerships with centres and institutions inside and outside the CUofSS.
- To actively engage in public debates in South Sudan and contribute to a lively intellectual community.
- To provide advisory services to, evaluation of and engagement with relevant stakeholders, like government agencies, the private sectors and NGO’s.
Since its inception, IARCO performed student research into leadership perspectives and cultural perceptions on suffering and mental health; published a strategic framework for fragile and post-conflict states; provided in-house consulting services to the University; and organised a number of book launches, public lecture series and a conference. With financial support of the Swiss Embassy in South Sudan, IARCO is currently performing student-led research project into cultural perceptions on suffering and mental health. The research project works towards a better understanding of existing vocabularies used to express vulnerability and speak about mental health-related issues and the cultural mechanisms for the mediation of violent subjective experiences among different ethnic communities in South Sudan. IARCO hopes that research into cultural perceptions on human suffering and mental health will help inform existing and future trauma programmes of (inter)national organisations, Church institutions and government bodies with more cultural-specific knowledge.
In the first months of 2016, with financial support of USAid, IARCO organised a lecture series titled “Restoring South Sudan: Discussions on Reconciliation, Justice and Healing”, that addressed the discrepancies between (trans)national political processes and the multi-cultural and multi-ethnic realities, understandings and attitudes towards the issues of reconciliation, justice and healing. These themes are highly interconnected and were separated in this lecture series for the purpose of a deeper exploration of both historical and contemporary experiences with, perceptions on and approaches to these issues.
In late June, IARCO co-organised and co-hosted the annual Rift Valley Institute (RVI) lecture series that discussed the nature of civil society in South Sudan and its past and future place in the public sphere. Over three evenings the programme focussed on specific institutions, including NGOs, churches and customary authorities, with a concluding discussion that explored the relationship between them.The panel discussions sought to answer questions concerning the role of civil society, including: What can we learn from the historic engagement of civil society in peace building? How can the different civil society elements, NGOs, traditional authority leaders, and churches, work together? A publication of the lecture series is online available at www.riftvalley.net/publication/instruments-both-peace-and-war. In late November, over the period of three days the Catholic University of South Sudan opened up a space for constructive and forward-thinking discussions to promote the principles of human dignity, equality and non-violence. The conference, under the title of “Mercy – Discussions on Forgiveness and Compassion towards a Peaceful and Cohesive South Sudan”, was strongly inspired by the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy; came in reaction to fast-shifting socio-political dynamics; and intended to examine and address the current situation in South Sudan through the lens of mercy, compassion and forgiveness. Speakers from a diverse range of professional and experiential backgrounds, ranging from religious leaders, to academicians, to civil society activists and cultural critics, exchanged perspectives and understandings of mercy in keynote addresses, panel discussions and Q&A and prayer sessions.