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The residential workshop was designed as a space to provide the opportunity to all members of the Think Tank to engage directly and develop new topics for the year 2017. Choosing four areas of interest – Uganda’s Energy Future, Pollution Management in Uganda, Fostering Female Entrepreneurship, and Oversight Mechanisms regarding Corruption – the members formed groups and engaged in a process of research and discussion resulting in a final presentation on the specific issue that highlighted the chosen research question, direction for further research, research methodology and potential stakeholders to be addressed. The research groups will continuously work together on their individually chosen topics throughout the year and finally aim to publish a paper for policy formulation and recommendation.
Working in groups, the participants formulated different questions for a more nuanced approach towards each topic: how can Uganda realize affordable clean energy for the urban poor? How does economic disadvantage inflict environment? The research group working on corruption oversight formulated a case study to analyze media cycle for two scandals.
The workshop further focused on the topic of audience engagement in order to increase the impact of Think Tank publications and discussions with stakeholders and the public. The external facilitator Michael Niyitegeka held an interactive session covering the topics of public speaking and presentation skills to train the participants in additional skills to make their interaction with various audiences more engaging and memorable in order to create greater impact. To effectively deliver your message to a specific audience in a specific context, you first have to “know your audience”, he emphasized. Since every participant has his or her individual expectations, “audience engagement is the deliberate strategy of turning event attendees into active participants in order to achieve the goals of organizer and attendee”.
Throughout the workshop, the participants developed and finally held a presentation on their topic of choice. To put the theory of audience engagement into practice and to address their attendees in a more effective way, the presentation groups focused not only on the content of their topic, but also on the style, body language and the technology used. Having learned about the numerous ways to hold an interactive and engaging presentation, the participants created innovative Power Point slides, experimenting with pictures, layouts and cartoons. Each presentation was concluded by feedback from the audience. The attendees used this way of constructive criticism to address the weaknesses and strengths of their fellows in order to improve their capacities to hold presentations in front of important stakeholders.
Overall, the residential workshop provided the participants with important insights and training for upcoming discussions and presentations. It further provided the Think Tank members with a direction into a productive year of insightful research and policy formulation. Informal activities like a volleyball match left room for teambuilding and the exchange of ideas for coming activities this year.