If, like me, you are one of those young people that are concerned about your personal contribution to your community, then the Youth4Policy fellowship is an excellent opportunity. That is easy to say though.
Asides the tough application and the gruelling face-to-face interviews from which the best possible applicants are selected, the actual fellowship is much more challenging. If anything, that is what I learnt during our three-day induction workshop over a lovely weekend, at a secluded location, away from the noise and dust of Kampala city.
I reckon I speak for all the eight fellows when I say we felt extremely overwhelmed at being selected for the prestigious program. But more importantly, the brunt of responsibility softly landed upon our shoulders as the workshop wore on and more and more, we were introduced to the nuances of policy design, the sheer amount of work behind getting a policy into the public space, and of course, the “politics in policy”.
KAS, PPI and CDA did an incredible job in selecting the most appropriate facilitators to give us the much-needed push to commence our exploratory policy journey. As Youth4Policy fellows, we are going to spend the next few months doing a deep-dive into fundamental areas of Uganda’s development journey, identifying critical policy gaps therein and coming up with feasible and practicable policy solutions. No mean feat.
On the first night of the workshop, it became obvious that the 2019 cohort is no ordinary group. With fellows from a myriad of backgrounds: education, law, finance, economics and social work – the warning signs were up immediately: government by the youth is NOT BUSINESS AS USUAL! We could call it business unusual, for good measure. The 2019 cohort is an intelligent, articulate and committed group of young people with dedication to Uganda’s story and a zeal to make it better and I was humbled to listen to their journeys.
Day Two was an intense immersion into the inner workings of the “policy industry” from Emmanuel Kitamirike and Yusuf Kiranda’s understanding of public policy, Dr Julius Kiiza’s academic theory on public policy and the big questions left answered, to the very constructive breakaway sessions with expert facilitators in development, economics, forced migration and several other key sectors. In one word: extensive. As fellow “fellows” will recall, there was a sense of exhaustion at the end of the sessions, combined with a feeling that we had signed up for something conceivably much bigger than ourselves but all the while critical in its importance to the overall discussion: how can we influence policy in Uganda as young people?
Furthermore, several questions were asked of the fellows, among them, and perhaps the most important, to keep an open mind and understand that policymaking is not a “one size fits all” industry. A messy, arduous process does not always end in the desired result but, ultimately, engages the individual intellectually.
The third day of the workshop comprised of a more realistic understanding of Uganda’s public policy architecture, facilitated by Dr Moki Mohammed from the Cabinet Secretariat. It was sobering to delve into the “real world” picture, juxtaposed against the academic overview we had received earlier. The session was an important backdrop against which to conclude the workshop as we spent the afternoon listening to presentations from the fellows on proposed policy topics for research. It was invigorating, interactive and an outstanding representation of what the 2019 cohort is all about: business unusual.
KAS and its partners put together an important precursor to the fellowship. The fellows are committed to delivering innovative, well-researched and insightful policy briefs and ultimately contributing, in a significant way, to the public policy discussion in Uganda.
Written by Benjamin Mugema, Youth4Policy fellow 2019