- Posted by VoiceBoxer Team
- On 24 March 2016
We chatted with Stephanie Wolters and the ISS before. Admittedly, those conversations mostly focused on our work – ensuring a smooth experience with the VoiceBoxer service. We wanted to turn it around this time and have a chat that focuses more on their work!
Clemens: What is the ISS?
Stephanie: ISS is short for “Institute of Security Studies”. We are an African NGO with the vision of creating a peaceful and prosperous Africa for all its people.
We keep investing in our in-depth and research-based understanding of human security issues on the continent and pass our knowledge on to a variety of stakeholders. Our interactions with stakeholders range from consulting and training for African officials in law enforcement and government as well as civil rights groups, humanitarian organisations and regional economic communities, to making our reports as well as databases on regional crime statistics or politician’s assets accessible to everybody.
Clemens: What are some of the key challenges you are facing in your work?
Stephanie: There are, of course, many different challenges.
One of them is the fact that evidence-based research is somewhat new to the world of policy-making in Africa, and we are working on carving out the space for it. There are those organisations and governments who are very much willing to engage in this kind of exchange and to recognize the expertise they are offered, but there are also those who are less interested. It is an ongoing and challenging job to build those relationships and to open a channel for this kind of communication.
Another challenge comes with the fact that the ISS is a donor-funded organisation. We are very grateful for our long-term donors from all over the world but we recognize that, for us to be sustainable in the long run, we need to start raising funds from the African continent. It is quite a new field to be looking for funds from African sources, and it is a challenge that we are very cognisant of and that we embrace.
Clemens: We know that the ISS hosts webinars titled “View on Africa.” What are they about?
Stephanie: We are very excited about “View on Africa.” A lot of people come to us for one-to-one briefings; they are a core aspect of what we do, and we feel like we have a lot of capacity in that field. Yet people who are not physically in Pretoria or Johannesburg are hard to reach with these kinds of meetings.
Webinars give us the opportunity to move our briefings beyond their geographical and scalability limitations. We really like the format, and we feel that they allow us to exchange with an audience that listens.
The topics we cover range from being very micro to something as macro as “Where is East Africa going?” When deciding on the subjects for the webinars, we look at key issues that are upcoming and ongoing. We always try to add an early warning analysis to it but, if necessary, we abandon the editorial schedule and focus on events that take precedence at that time.
Clemens: All your publications and webinars are in English and French, why is that?
Stephanie: English and French are the national languages of the majority of countries on the continent. People all over Africa speak at least two languages, often times more, and English is just one of the languages on offer. For example, most people in the francophone African countries do not speak English, so for us to get our message across clearly, increase our audience and, last but not least, out of respect, we publish all our reports in both languages and use VoiceBoxer for our webinars. There are a lot of organisations broadcasting their seminars, but they rarely do it in two languages. We strongly feel that it is very important to communicate in a language that people really understand and feel comfortable with.
Clemens: A closing question: If I wanted to attend a “View on Africa”, where would I find out about it and how can I join?
Stephanie: The best way to find out about it would be signing up for the ISS Weekly newsletter or to check our events page. We publish ISS weekly every Thursday and “View on Africa” is always scheduled for Wednesday. We follow this cycle religiously throughout the year.
Clemens: Thank you very much for the talk, Stephanie!