2022: Somali Public Agenda’s Year in Review

Reflections From Our Team

2022 was a very productive year for Somali Public Agenda (SPA). We published 15 papers, held a record 19 forums (including 6 Gaxwo & Gorfeyn meetups), produced 22 podcast episodes, trained 30 bloggers, engaged and talked to local and international media, trained 8 interns, and started working with like-minded institutions.

In 2022, SPA conducted and published various extensive studies. We published 3 research reports, 4 policy papers, 3 governance briefs, and 5 commentaries. We undertook research and analysis on key governance and public service issues in Somalia including contentious political issues in Somalia, education, public health, public budget, security, climate change, displacement, transitional justice, and religion and politics. SPA researchers traveled to all Federal Member States and conducted interviews and focus group discussions with 550 key informants in Kismayo, Baidoa, Garowe, Qardho, Gaalkacyo, Beledweyne, Afgoye, Dhusamareb, and Mogadishu.

SPA produced joint research reports with other think tanks in 2022. We published a study with the Rift Valley Institute (RVI) on the role of religious actors in contemporary Somali politics. SPA also published a joint study with the Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) of the Oversees Development Institute (ODI) on data sharing and third-party monitoring in humanitarian response.

Moreover, SPA introduced policy papers in 2022. Three of the 4 policy papers published in 2022 focused on contentious political issues in Somalia including Mogadishu’s status and power allocation. These papers were jointly published with the Somali Dialogue Platform, a programme, implemented by the Rift Valley Institute, that works to facilitate agreement amongst Somalis on contentious political issues. SPA researchers, together with the Somali Dialogue Platform team, convened a series of policy dialogues and traveled to capital cities of the Federal Member States and presented the ‘Revitalizing the negotiation of contentious political issues’ paper to key political stakeholders in Somalia.  

The name of our policy and service design center was changed from SPA Center for Public Policy and Service Design to SPA Policy Lab in August 2022. The SPA Policy Lab started working on design projects in 2022. The SPA Policy Lab partnered with the Regional Durable Solutions Secretariat (ReDSS) on designing human-centered, evidence-based programmes for the displaced communities in Somalia. Moreover, the Lab, with the collaboration of Interpeace, has started working on evidence-based and locally-owned transitional justice interventions for the community in Galkayo. The director of the SPA Policy Lab wrote a reflection on how running this relatively new policy lab that aims to bridge the gap between policies and people is both challenging and exciting, and how knowledge about policy design is fresh and needs constant learning.

The SPA Center for Learning and Development (CLD) conducted two successful blog writing training in January and July 2022 for 30 talented young bloggers. During the two training, trainees wrote over 100 blog posts and shared them with their social media networks. Throughout the eight weeks of the 4-week long training, eight renowned Somali bloggers mentored the trainees, shared their blogging journeys, and gave invaluable advice. The SPA Center for Learning and Development is committed to conducting similar blog training and will introduce research training in 2023, in addition to its public sector training, in pursuit of 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 2022. Four other interns (two male and two female) also did a monthlong internship with credits from their universities. The eight interns contributed to the work of the different SPA departments and research productions. The internship provides much-needed experience for recent university graduates. Three interns who took the three-month-long internship wrote reflections (published on the SPA website) about their internship experiences. The reflection of the fourth intern will be published in early January 2023.

In 2022, we produced and released 22 podcast episodes. The Maamul Wanaag Podcast produced a record of 18 episodes. The Maamul Wanaag Podcast delves deep into various governance matters in Somalia. The guests of the Maamul Wanaag Podcast broadly discussed and analyzed governance topics including Mogadishu’s status, power allocation, fiscal federalism, national security architecture, elections, petroleum resources, and transitional justice. SPA also launched Adeeg Wanaag Podcast on October 1st, 2022. Adeeg Wanaag intensely discusses public service matters in Somalia. The 4 episodes released in 2022 discussed access to education and healthcare, the rise of ciyaal weero, and durable solutions for the displaced community. In 2022, over 3,100 times were downloaded and listened to our two podcasts.

Our Public Agenda Forum organized 19 forums in 2022. We partnered with International Media Support (IMS), Somali Dialogue Platform, and Urur Kaab to convene a series of forums on public services and governance issues. We convened 7 forums on social services with IMS and 2 on governance issues with Urur Kaab. Two of these forums convened to disseminate and present some of our studies; we also convened 2 Twitter Space discussions on elections and budget. In addition, we were able to convene 6 Gaxwo & Gorfeyn meet-ups. In total, 783 persons attended our forums in 2022 both physically and virtually. This is almost double the 415 persons who attended our forums in 2021.

SPA maintained a 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 transitional justice. We also renewed and strengthened our partnership with International Media Support (IMS). In 2022, we also started a new working relationship with new institutions including the Regional Durable Solutions Secretariat (ReDSS), Life and Peace Institute (LPI), Research and Evidence Facility (REF), Urur Kaab, and Tana Copenhagen.

We maintained a good relationship with the media. We were regularly interviewed by international and local media outlets. BBC, VOA, Goobjoog, and  Kalfadhi were some of the media houses that regularly interviewed or invited our team members to participate in debates. Our researchers and analysts were invited and presented our work at forums and conferences including the Greater Horn Horizon Forum (GHHF), ReDSS learning forums, the Costs of War Conference organized by Brown University, and the HIPS Annual Forum for Ideas held in Djibouti.

Our work also shaped policy-making in Somalia in 2022. The recommendations of our joint policy paper with the Somali Dialogue Platform titled ‘Revitalizing the negotiation of contentious political issues: Key considerations going forward’ were mostly used by the National Consultative Council (NCC). Our election observation work in the Benadir region injected some level of transparency and accountability into the indirect elections.   

Contributing to our significant achievements in 2022, 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 2023 will focus on public participation in political processes, fiscal and service decentralization, civil service reform, local council formation, reconciliation, durable solutions, transitional justice, climate change, and education. Studies, briefs, policy papers, commentaries, forums, and podcasts on these issues will be our priorities in 2023.

It has been an honor for me to lead our talented, youthful, and competent SPA team. Despite the limited financial resources, the electoral impasse in the first five months of the year, security concerns, and other challenges of 2022, 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 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 sixth year, we are looking forward to producing quality research outputs, creating space for discussion on key national issues, offering training, and helping public and civic institutions design human-centered public services.

Mahad Wasuge is the Executive Director of the Somali Public Agenda.

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