Imagining the Future: Engaging young people on environmental challenges to create new and sustainable livelihoods in Algeria
March 2020 - January 2022
Dr. Adel Chiheb, Mohamed Seddik Ben Yahia University, Jijel, Algeria (Co-Investigator)
Prof. Said Chaouki Chakour, University of Jijel, Algeria (Co-Investigator)
Dr. Latefa Guemar (Project Partner, University of East London)
Dr. Patrick Crowley, (Project Partner, University College Cork, Ireland)
Prof. Zahia Salhi (Project Partner, University of Manchester)
Dr. Hamied Mahwies (Project Partner, International Colleges of Islamic Science, London)
Meryem Abdelhafid (Research Assistant, Coventry University)
Steered by a network of youth researchers, this project will investigate and facilitate debate around how to innovate to expand and diversify livelihoods in environmental projects in a pivotal moment in Algerian history.
Creative solutions to tackling environmental challenges have potential to create meaningful employment. These new jobs are often in the informal sector, in associations, or small businesses, which can be valued and supported in different ways. The proposal seeks to capture creative ideas and energy of young people to reconceptualise how they imagine their own futures, as citizens and decision makers in the environmental sector and beyond. What kinds of livelihoods could be created in the 21st century to tackle the challenges facing cities in North Africa? What forms of governance do they conceive as fair and sustainable? How can young people be better involved in policymaking to ensure such imagined futures, livelihoods and work could be possible?
The research investigates root causes of environmental degradation and connections to lack of youth livelihoods, youth disengagement or exclusion from public life, using political ecology, humanities and social sciences methodologies. It aims to draw out the interconnected nature of these socio-ecological challenges. Understanding existing creative responses of young people can enhance capacity to support them to imagine new livelihoods, work or engagement to tackle future environmental problems. The research will have important findings for policy makers and young people across North African and Mediterranean contexts, characterised by high youth unemployment and similar environmental challenges. It focuses on Algeria due to important political changes started in 2019. Heightened youth engagement in politics and the environment renders Algeria an ideal case study to disentangle the complexity of multiple sustainability challenges facing young people.
This proposal aims to explore how young people across different cities in Algeria now view themselves, and what they think is necessary to become citizens capable of influencing policy and politics in the country, creating meaningful livelihoods, protecting their own environments. Building on an established network of youth researchers in Algeria, this proposal has been co-designed by twenty young Algerians from 12 universities across Algeria. It aims to:
- Use creative, participatory methodologies, to understand how young Algerians perceive the categories which define them such as citizenship and identity, including how the recent peaceful political mobilisation has affected this, and how symbolic acts such as cleaning up the streets and public spaces have affected their relationships to their local environments.
- Understand young people’s creative solutions to the problems regarding the lack of meaningful livelihoods. Might these include new forms of work, activism or civic engagement in the green economy? Are they already tackling other environmental problems such as local pollution, desertification, energy transitions, abandoning of traditional sustainable practices or resource depletion? If so, how could these be expanded?
- Value, exchange and disseminate young people’s creativity and solutions, imagining and planning new livelihoods, and strengthen their capacities to engage effectively in political life and policy. It aims to amplify the voice and creativity of young Algerians locally (with regional policy makers), nationally (with relevant ministries) and internationally (through international engagement with UK and global partners) to influence policies around the environment and climate change which will affect their long-term futures.
The project will promote economic development and welfare across Algeria through three pathways to impact. The research, collaborative working and policy engagement at several levels will:
- Amplify the voices of young people, highlighting their concerns and also sharing their ideas and strategies for sustainable development to assist regional and national governments to improve policies, by including young people in their development.
- Support capacity building within our university partners to support applied research aiming for impact in the real world – by drawing on Coventry’s CTPSR and Jijel’s LPSHSAD own experience and by training a new generation of researchers to do participatory action research and to bring strong evidence bases into decision making, policy formation and governance more widely.
- Translate the research findings into useful policy guidance for local, regional and national government, business leaders and civil society organisations across the country through engagement events including public TEDx style talks, creative events, policy seminars for stakeholders and through collaborative research, involving them throughout the process.
This research will result in joint academic and non-academic outputs targeting local, national and international stakeholders. Following the training workshops on research design, qualitative and quantitive research methods, and then participatory action research activities in five different cities, the project will lead to the following outputs:
- Three peer-reviewed articles in high-quality international journals, submitted within one year, will focus on how young Algerians view their futures post the hirak social movement (targeting open access Africa Spectrum), their creative solutions to environmental challenges (Journal of Political Ecology) and the implications for citizenship and democracy (Democratization). The PI will lead and ensure timely submission.
- We will submit a joint panel in an international conference such as BRISMES-2021. We will present further papers in 2022 in associations in which we are active (Society for Algerian Studies, POLLEN, DSA, ASAUK, BISA and BRISMES).
- In addition, we will encourage the PhD researchers to publish from the data in relevant national journals, such as NAQD and other Algerian social science journals.
- We will publish an edited volume on youth engagement in resolving environmental challenges at a time of deep political transformation in Algeria. Respected publishing houses have expressed an interest (OUP and McGill-Queen's University Press’ new series ‘Protest, Power, and Resistance’).
- Four youth researchers are journalists and documentarists. They will produce articles for Arabophone (Akhbar Elyoum and Elwassat) and Francophone (Elmoudjahid and El Watan) newspapers.
- The PHD researchers wish to produce audio-visual material, short clips, to share findings. The PI will produce videos with CTPSR Rising Peace media team. She will liaise with contacts in Al-Monitor and the National online media and BBC Arabic.
- Lead investigators will publish Op-Eds in online media, Conversation and Open Democracy, where the PI has a presence.
- Policy briefings for authorities and donors will focus on opportunities to support youth employment and environmental projects, and links between UK-Algerian HE institutions.
- Training manuals for research design and data analysis workshops will be disseminated via PHDs to 12 Algerian partner universities. Our website will host all open access outputs.