On 10th January 2023 Voluntās and the Center for Applied Meaningfulness took a giant stride towards establishing meaningful academic collaborations in India when signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Tata Institute of Social Sciences – Asia’s oldest school for professional social work.
Voluntās expands into Sudan
Voluntas is expanding geographically. Earlier this year, we established a partnership with Sudan Polling and Statistics Center (SPSC), an organization which has been a leader in meeting the demand for better statistical data to serve public and private decision-making in Sudan since 2009. SPSC’s depth of experience implementing social sciences research will be crucial to supporting Voluntas’s growing portfolio of projects in the country. In partnering with local institutions, we aim to not only harness contextual knowledge, but also work with our partners to strengthen local capacities.
Dana Fuentes, a senior associate with Voluntas who until recently was based in Tunis, relocated to Sudan last month to support our expanding presence in the country. Dana will be supported by Nada Elamin. We will be opening an office in Khartoum in the coming months.
Interview with Manahil Elsafi (SPSC)
Manahil is a team supervisor at SPSC, overseeing large-scale data collection in the field. Manahil is Voluntas’s point-of-contact at SPSC and we therefore work closely with her to ensure the timely delivery of high-quality data. We spoke with her about her experience working on data collection in Sudan and the daily work in the field. Manahil joined SPSC as a researcher while studying at Al Jazira University, thanks to a partnership that SPSC had developed with the university. Given the importance of data collection to research studies and evaluations, Manahil spoke about the importance of planning, especially when working in conflict zones, as well as issues related to collecting and uploading data from the field:
“challenges differ according to the project, but we try our best to manage the different situations and find solutions accordingly”. Manahil aims for her work to have a positive impact on her community and country. Her dream project is one that helps people: “we want to make a positive impact on people’s lives. It is a responsibility talking to different people from different backgrounds on various topics; from economy to political and social affairs, the ultimate message is to be able to help people around us, shed light on the different issues that they face, and give them a chance to voice out their concerns and ideas for solutions”.
In addition to its role and capacities in data collection in Sudan, SPSC also provides employment opportunities, especially for youth and women.
New projects in Sudan
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
In January, Voluntas started its first project in Sudan, working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to conduct a basic needs and vulnerability assessment of migrants, refugees, and host communities (BaNVA). The BaNVA is the most comprehensive assessment of its kind in Sudan, seeking to understand the individual, household, communal, and institutional needs and vulnerabilities of target groups across the whole of Sudan. The assessment has consisted of face-to-face interviews with more than 5,000 refugees and 1,400 Sudanese citizens across 13 states, and 20 key informant interviews. The BaNVA has captured wellbeing indicators across several key thematic areas including food security, WASH, protection, and education, and has been designed to explore the feasibility and suitability of multipurpose cash modalities to address unmet needs of the target population.
Overall, this assessment is innovative in a few different ways: it spans a multi-sector framework of needs and vulnerabilities; it has been developed in close collaboration with other key actors to maximize its impact and usability across organizations; and it targets previously understudied groups even within the refugee framework, including out-of-camp and urban refugees, and host communities.
Working with the World Bank
In addition to assessing humanitarian needs, Voluntas has been conducting studies related to Sudan’s political and economic transition. Alongside the World Bank, we recently completed a study on Sudan’s economic reforms, which aimed to understand the perceptions of Sudan’s economic performance and how the reform agenda may best be communicated. Data collection included a 1000 face-to-face computer-assisted personal interview (CAPI) survey, 45 KIIs, and five FGDs. This project was recently finalized with a presentation for the Government of Sudan.
United States Institute of Peace
For the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), we have been conducting a study on the public perceptions of Sudan’s political transition. This has involved a nationwide survey of 1800 individuals, 10 KIIs, and 6 FGDs.
The World Food Programme
Building on the experience of our third-party monitoring projects in Libya, Voluntas is now working with the World Food Programme (WFP) in Sudan to monitor its activities across the country. This will include 450 site visits at WFP’s 5,000 operational sites across the country.
Finally, Voluntas is currently working on a political economy analysis of the local governance sector in Darfur for VNG International, the International Cooperation Agency of the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG), which involves 24 KIIs across West and South Darfur. The study is focusing on local governance structures in Darfur in relation to reconciliations, grassroots peace processes, and recovery and development.
On September 15th, 2022, Voluntas and the Arab Master’s program in Democracy and Human Rights, “Global Campus – Arab World” signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), laying the foundation for a new era of cross-sector collaboration in the MENA region.
Esbjerg wants to create the world’s most human university with a central focus on education, human development and a high degree of belonging.
Voluntas and the star architect company Bjarke Ingels group are supporting the project.
Based on Morten Albæks philosophy of a meaningful life, the students must embark on an educational journey based on becoming self-realized people who master their encounters with life’s coincidences, opportunities, and challenges.