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2018 ARNOVA Africa/AROCSA Conference
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DATES:  July 25-28, 2018                                                                                                                             





The Association for Research on Civil Society in Africa (AROCSA) was established in September 2015 in Accra, under the auspices of the Association for Research on Non-Profit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA), and funded by the Ford Foundation, West Africa, to promote and advance a community of excellence in research and practice on civil society in the service of African development. One of AROCSA'S main operational areas is to convene an Annual Conference which seeks to bring together scholars and practitioners for networking, learning and skills-building. AROCSA is driven by the vision of an Africa where knowledge generation and dissemination on civil society by scholars reflect global excellence standards and propels development.




Global geopolitical trends such as Brexit in 2016, the American presidency, the rise of neo-nationalism in Europe, and certain leadership shifts on the African continent have fueled calls for Africa to begin looking internally towards its own interests and 'homegrown' solutions. Africa, as a continent, is being called upon to retreat and review its position in the current world order, and leverage its regional and continental resources, policies and networks for its own benefit. One may ask what these calls for regionalism really mean, exactly how it can be leveraged, and what role Civil Society may play.

Regional engagements on the continent of Africa have taken many forms over time, and the literature is replete with terminology that illustrates the diversity and simultaneously insular nature of these conceptualized zones. There is hardly any consensus on the definition of "regionalism" though it often triggers several other related concepts (regionalization, collaboration, treaties, multilateralism, agreements, liberalization, integration, cooperation, defragmentation, connectivity), which all point to an effort to unite a large and fragmented continent, in terms of socioeconomic status, geographical similarities, governance, political economy, culture, religion, and more. It is indeed a complex effort.

In the 1960s, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) led the efforts towards regional integration, with the aim of economic development. Calls for regional integration in Africa have also been made from Pan-Africanist, political and symbolic motives, especially evidenced by the Lagos Plan of Action, crafted by the OAU in 1980. Over time, calls for integration have had strong economic and trade underpinnings. Inter-regionalism has also been on the rise, as regional blocs in Africa have looked to engage other regional blocs outside the continent, as evidenced by The Cotonou Agreement in the year 2000, between the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) and the EU.

Thus far, conceptualization of regionalism (and all its variants) and the actual practice of agreements and initiatives have tended to focus on politico-ideological motivations for regionalism, as well as economic partnership opportunities, which have yielded mixed results, at best (Matthews, 2003). There is a significant gap in the narrative, created by the lack of attention given to socio-political and cultural variants of regionalism.

Perhaps it is time to showcase the challenges, opportunities and possibilities offered by regionalism in Africa, along dimensions that look beyond trade and economic partnerships. There are salient questions to be asked, with regard to civil society actors, and how civil societies have worked across boundaries and/or in regional blocs, in their efforts to solve regional problems related to governance, human rights, food security, migration, gender, public policy, health, education, philanthropy and more.




Matthews, A. 2003. Regional Integration and Food Security in Developing Countries. Report produced

by the Technical Cooperation Department for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Retrieved online at  

McCarthy, C. 1995. Regional integration: part of the solution or part of the problem? In Ellis, S. ed., Africa

 Now: People, Policies, and Institutions. London, James Currey/Portsmouth, Heinemann.



1. Promote an active learning exchange of information and ideas between researchers and practitioners of civil society organizations. Outcome: the volume of collaborations, adoption and implementation of lessons learnt by participants.

2. Establish key recommendations that inform civil society engagement within and across regions, and ultimately contribute to African development.

3. Promote experience-sharing and networking amongst academics, researchers, civil society practitioners, development practitioners and policy makers.  


We hope to review and understand the role of civil society in regionalism in Africa, against the backdrop of changing global affairs; identify and showcase examples of how civil society organizations have actually used regional approaches to achieve results in their work across the African continent. Undergirded by empirical research and conceptual analyses as well as practitioners' insights, we hope to first, encourage the intellectual analysis of contemporary issues concerning regionalism in Africa and second, highlight existing regional relationships - the challenges of, and opportunities for regional interaction for mutual benefit of Civil Society.

We welcome paper and poster submissions that conceptualize regionalism, examine theoretical models and frameworks that explain, describe and predict relationships between regional agents, and highlight determinants of success. Ultimately, the discourse should lead to new research that is relevant to the theme.

We look forward to providing an opportunity for practitioners to share their lessons, especially concerning how they, as civil society actors, have worked to push an agenda of regional collaboration, and how they have leveraged such efforts to build lasting relationships with cross-border counterparts. We are interested in learning about the myths, failures and successes of regionalism. We will also engage in conversations about the role and influence of African Philanthropy in regional efforts towards problem-solving.



For all presentation options (paper presentation, roundtable discussion, poster presentation), we welcome content that addresses the following sub-themes in the context of REGIONALISM in Africa:


  1. Arts and Culture
  2. Civic Affairs and Activism
  3. Conceptualization of Regionalism (Theories, Models and Frameworks)
  4. Demographic Changes
  5. Education
  6. Gender
  7. Governance and Public Policy
  8. Human Security
  9. Media and Journalism
  10. Migration
  11. Philanthropy
  12. Science and Technology
  13. Social Entrepreneurship



The conference program will include the following:

  • Opening Plenary with a keynote speaker
  • Breakout sessions with presentations by 3 speakers
  • Roundtables discussions focusing on practitioner experiences
  • Poster exhibitions showcasing work done by CSOs
  • Pre-conference Skills Development Workshop for early career scholars
  • We will make room for a film screening on a relevant video documentary, or a Debate on a relevant issue if there are compelling submissions.


AROCSA is particularly interested in empirical academic research papers, conceptual academic papers, especially those done in collaboration with civil society practitioners and poster presentations to showcase work being done by CSOs.  Please specify your preference of presentation when submitting the summary paper.



Please contact the ARNOVA office with your questions by e-mailing


Steps on How to Submit a Summary Paper

1.     Register to become a member of AROCSA, if you are not already 

(AROCSA membership is $15/year expiring December 31st and includes complimentary membership to ARNOVA. Please send an email to Holly Titus at if interested in becoming a member.)

2.     Submit a 600-word summary paper: Deadline for Submission – March 16th, 2018

(All self-identifying information should be removed from proposal for blind review.)

3.     AROCSA review and acceptance, announcement and Feedback by: April 13th, 2018

4.     Final submission of paper according to the guidelines/format by: June 15th, 2018


The 600-word summary should include the following:

1.  A title that clearly identifies the conference theme being addressed;

2.  Problem or issue that will be addressed in the presentation;

3.  Topic’s relation to the state of knowledge in the field (including relevant literature);

4.  Methodological approach (including analytical strategy and data sources);

5.  A brief account of conclusion and its significance to an international audience.



Please note that you do not need to be a member of AROCSA to submit a paper. However, we encourage all authors who are not registered members of AROCSA to first register to be members of AROCSA, before submitting a summary.  



Deadline for Submission of Summary Paper                                     March 16th, 2018 Extended to April 6, 2018

AROCSA Review and Acceptance, Announcement & Feedback:     April 13th, 2018 Extended to May 4, 2018

Final Submission of all Conference Papers:                                      June 15th, 2018

Conference:                                                                                      July 25-28, 2018



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