International networks to tackle development challenges

A Leeds-led project to help young people whose lives have been affected by conflict will showcase how the arts and humanities can help those in need.

Changing the Story, led by Professor Paul Cooke, Director of the Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures in Leeds’ Faculty of Arts, Cultures and Societies, is one of five major new international academic networks being set up by universities in the UK and the ‘Global South’ to conduct collaborative research into some of the world’s most pressing development challenges.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has announced details of the interdisciplinary networks, which will access more than £9 million from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

Starting next month and running for up to four years, they will look at issues such as how the heritage sector can generate jobs and growth in East Africa and strengthen democracy in politically fragile states.

The Leeds-led four-year project, Changing the Story: building inclusive civil societies with, and for, young people in five post-conflict countries, will work with researchers, organisations and communities in Cambodia, Colombia, Kosovo, Rwanda and South Africa.

Professor Cooke said: “The aim of this project is to evaluate present – and inform future – practice of youth-focused charities and international non-Governmental organisations working in ‘post-conflict’ settings, in order to build strong institutions that can support communities to deliver sustained social justice.”

He added that the use of participatory arts – for example inter-ethnic choirs in Kosovo or community filmmaking in Cambodia – will provide a key focus of the project, as it examines what actually works in helping post-conflict societies to face their past.

Professor Cooke will work with University of Leeds colleague Professor Stuart Taberner and colleagues in Bournemouth, Bath and the University of East London, Rwanda’s Mashirika Performing Arts Group, University of Pretoria, University of Pristina, Documentation Center of Cambodia and University of Los Andes, together with the British Council, UNESCO and various charities on the ground.

Announced by the Government in November 2015, the GCRF is a £1.5 billion fund to support leading research and ensure the UK takes a leading role in global development. By working with world-leading researchers and institutions, the fund aims to help address the complex global issues faced by developing countries.

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