Pilac Wins The “Peoples’ Choice Award” At The Resilient Africa Network Exhibition

“I did not think that we would scoop an award in an exhibition that is purely science oriented.”  (Cynthia Nona Tamale) “I did not feel like we fitted in.  It seemed like a scientific exhibition” (Rosemary Karoro). This feeling that we silently shared however, did not deter us from winning the people’s choice award, having been voted unanimously by the guests who turned up for the exhibition.  

The two of us, students from the clinical legal education class represented the Public Interest Law clinic of Makerere University School of Law in an exhibition organized by ResilientAfrica Network (RAN), the first event organized by the Eastern Africa RILab to source for innovations that provide solutions to community challenges.
Our team presented the Community Law Programme and Mobile Clinic (CLAPMOC) innovation. 

This is a community outreach programme that extends free legal services to the indigent and the marginalized communities.  We explained the objectives of this programme which is to enhance access to justice to the most vulnerable groups in the society and to build a capacity of law students who will take on social justice lawyering and acquire skills and experience for this end.

Our explanations were spiced up and demonstrated by the video clips and pictorials of some of the activities that the Clinical Legal education class has had with the communities in various parts of the country, which further increased the people’s appreciation of the activities.
There were over thirty two innovations at the exhibition.  Guests or people who turned up for the exhibition were also involved in selecting their favorite innovation at the exhibition through what was termed as the People’s choice Award.  All four innovations were recognized among the best out of all innovations in the exhibition.
In our view and drawing from the comments and feedback received, the innovation that we show-cased in the exhibition did not meet the scientific standards that the panel of judges were looking for given that it was a predominantly scientific exhibition that focused on scientific innovations.

Participants were drawn from six out of eight colleges, representing at least 15 different academic disciplines from Makerere University namely Software Engineering, computer Science, Data Communications and Networking, Architecture, Survey, Electrical Engineering, Forestry, Environmental Geographical Sciences, Agricultural Sciences, Food Science, Nutrition and Bio-Engineering, Animal Resources and Bio-Security, Humanities and Social Sciences, Peace and Conflict and School of Health Sciences and School of Law.

Nonetheless, the people appreciated this programme and voted it as their favorite innovation.  They appreciated the spirit behind CLAPMOC and deemed it relevant to society and an important tool for advancing social justice and social transformation.  In educating people about CLAPMOC, law was demystified and the people realized that law can be used as a tool for building resilience amongst African communities.  Consequently, PILAC scooped an award that ideally would have gone to a more scientific innovation.

The innovations exhibition held by ResilientAfrica Network (RAN)  in the Makerere University Main Hall on Friday March 14th, 2014, was an opportunity for the faculty, students, private sector, Government, NGOs and the community at large to showcase their prototypes or projects that would be considered for acceleration in the Eastern Africa’s Resilience Innovation Lab (EA RILab).

It focused on creating and encouraging resilience amongst African communities and zeroed down to effects of climate change and chronic conflict effects like poverty, child abuse, gender based violence among others. The participants were required to show case their innovations or approaches to a panel of judges that would select the best six innovations and then narrow them down to three.

The exhibition is one of the main ways that RAN is using to identify promising innovations from within partner universities and local innovation hubs. Such innovations will be entered into RAN’s Resilience Innovation Acceleration Program where teams will receive technical support by leveraging expertise within RAN and the HESN, mentorship, capacity building and financial support to help them, accelerate the development, piloting and scaling of their innovations.

RAN a development laboratory under the Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN), in the Office of Science and Technology (OST), USAID, is a five year project that is aimed at creating an analytical and experimental framework that will enable USAID to identify data-driven, empirically validated solutions to achieving strengthened resilience in indigenous African communities.
The Makerere University Deputy Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe graced the occasion and officially launched the EA RILab’s Resilience Innovation Acceleration Program.


By Cynthia Nona Tamale and Rosemary Karoro