2021 was another productive year for Somali Public Agenda. Despite the electoral impasse, armed clashes in Mogadishu, and the various other humanitarian, security, and Covid-19 challenges that Somalia faced, SPA produced 12 publications in total, including 6 governance briefs, 3 research reports, and 3 commentaries.
In 2021, SPA conducted various extensive studies. We undertook research on fiscal federalism, reconciliations, and democratization in the country. SPA researchers traveled to all Federal Member States and interviewed 97 key informants in Mogadishu, Kismayo, Baidoa, Jowhar, Beledweyne, Abudwaq, Galkacyo, Garowe.
Elections, federalism, and reconciliation were the focus of most of our publications. Of the 12 publications, four focused on democratization and elections. The election topics studied and analyzed included an analysis of the ‘Mogadishu Model’ (also known as the 17 September 2020 election agreement), the operationalization of indirect elections, lessons from Somalia’s Upper House elections, and democratization and local elections in Puntland.
SPA also produced a major study and a governance brief on Galmudug reconciliation and the resurgence of Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a there. In 2021, SPA Published a year-long study on fiscal federalism in Somalia. Our other publications focused on a comparative analysis of the Sexual Offences Bill, the federal budget, the importance of policy design centers, and the production and ownership of aid-related knowledge in the Somali territories.
The SPA Centre for Public Policy and Service Design (CPPSD), which was established in mid-2020, enlarged its network of experts in 2021 and brought on board 3 design fellows – Lisa Rudnick, Dr. Derek B. Miller & Abdishakur Hassan. The CPPSD has also established communication and partnership with similar organizations to share experiences and collaborate on policy and service design. As Somalia’s knowledge on policy and service design is limited, the SPA Centre for Public Policy and Service Design director wrote and published a design-related brief to introduce, sensitize and expand the understanding of citizens and policy-makers on the importance of design centers in delivering efficient and effective policies that yield intended outcomes and impacts.
The SPA Center for Learning and Development (CLD) conducted a successful blog writing training in mid-2021 for 14 talented young bloggers. During the 4-week training, trainees wrote 43 blog posts and shared them with their social media networks. We were amazed by the quality of the writing and the inspiring stories that the trainees were able to share during the training period. Throughout the four weeks of the training, four locally renowned bloggers mentored the trainees, shared their blogging journeys, and gave invaluable advice. The SPA Center for Learning and Development is committed conducting similar blog trainings and will introduce qualitative research training in 2022, in addition to its public sector training, in pursuant to the center’s objective, among others, of inculcating and advancing the culture of writing in Somalia.
Four interns (two male and two female) completed three-month internships in 2021. The interns contributed to the work of the different SPA departments and research productions. The internship provides much-needed experience for recent university graduates. The three interns wrote reflections (published on the SPA website) about their internship experiences. The reflection of the fourth intern will be published in early January 2022.
In mid-2021, our podcasts were rearranged. The previous ‘SPA Podcast’ name was changed and the new Maamul Wanaag podcast was launched. This podcast delves deep into various governance matters in Somalia. Three episodes of the Maamul Wanaag podcast were released in 2021. Another podcast that focuses on social services in Somalia will be started in early 2022. Since its introduction in mid-2019, our podcasts have been downloaded over 2,880 times. A podcast studio was equipped in late 2021, and video recording of the podcasts is expected to be started in early 2022.
Our SPA library was refurbished in 2021. New library shelves were set up in our new office. The number of books in our library increased exponentially. 90 new books, mainly Somali studies, joined the library in 2021. Currently, 145 books are in our library, and we will continue investing in books. Some of these books were brought from the UK and Kenya. Some of our SPA friends have started to come to our office and often spend many hours reading books in our library.
Our Public Agenda Forum organized five in-person forums in 2021. Some of these forums convened to disseminate and present some of our studies. We were able to organize a forum beyond Mogadishu in 2021; we convened forums in Dhusamareb and Garowe. We partnered with Creative Associates International and the UN in Somalia on a two-day joint forum on youth political participation. in total, 198 people participated in our forums. Moreover, we convened 11 Gaxwo & Gorfeyn monthly meet-ups (the 12th will be held on 30 December). Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, four of these Gaxwo & Gorfeyn meet-ups convened online (three in zoom and one on Twitter Spaces). The online discussions allowed us to engage people living in areas beyond Mogadishu. 217 persons attended our Gaxwo & Gorfeyn discussion in 2021. In total, 415 persons attended our discussions (forums and Gaxwo & Gorfeyn monthly meet-ups) in 2021.
SPA maintained collaborative relationship with our partners and donors and started new relationships. We are currently working with the Rift Valley Institute’s Somali Dialogue Platform on research and engagement related to contentious political issues in Somalia. We continued working with Interpeace on peace and reconciliation-related studies. We also started formalizing our relationship with International Media Support (IMS).
We maintained a good relationship with the media. We were regularly interviewed by many international and local media outlets. BBC Somali, CGTN, AlJazeera, Goobjoog TV, VoA Somali, Kalfadhi, and Dalsan TV were some of the media houses that interviewed or invited our team members to participate in debates. Our researchers and analysts were quoted by the Guardian and Washington Post and featured in the UN Somalia feature story.
Our audience and outreach increased significantly in 2021. Our work has been found through online search engines 9,140 times; Our mailing list subscribers reached 1,316. Our Twitter handle (@somalipubagenda) was verified in July 2021 and its followers have almost doubled to 5682. Our Facebook page followers increased from 18,000 in 2020 to close to 30,000 followers in 2021. The number of followers of our LinkedIn page increased from 150 in 2020 to 909 followers in 2021. Our website views reached over 33,460 in 2021.
Contributing to our significant achievements in 2021, four competent and committed core team members joined the organization over the last year. Each has contributed conscientiously to the work SPA performs.
Our work in 2022 will focus on elections, civil service reform, fiscal and service decentralization, local council formation, debt relief, reconciliation, climate change, and education. Studies and briefing papers, forums, and podcasts on these issues will be our priorities in 2022.
It has been an honor for me to lead our talented, youthful, and competent SPA team. Despite the limited financial resources, the electoral impasse, the pandemic, security concerns, and other challenges of 2021, SPA has been able to consistently produce high quality papers and create a space for important discussions both online and in-person.
Finally, we are grateful for the unwavering support of our distinguished Board members (who appointed a Deputy Executive Director this year) and our fellows. Special gratitude goes to Peter Chonka who spends many hours reading and editing our work every year. Many thanks are also owed to our supporters and readers whose confidence and encouragement inspire us to do more work for the common good. As we enter our fifth year, we are looking forward to producing quality research outputs, creating space for discussion on key national issues, offering training, and helping public institutions design human-centered public services.
Mahad Wasuge is the Executive Director of the Somali Public Agenda.