Understanding Our Research Approach

Research at AU Watch

Since our establishment in 2015, AU Watch has developed a significant and impactful reputation in AU Studies. We have achieved this through a research strategy that is built on the ethos of disruption, excellence, and impact, and which is underpinned by a strong and managed focus on sustainability.

Our researchers operate within an effective interdisciplinary research environment, collaborating across the whole organisation and beyond through research groups which define our current areas of work and provide a framework for joint research and funding applications. They have adopted robust and innovative research strategies to tackle society’s most entrenched challenges.Our researchers at AU Watch have decades of research experience that have helped to shape development and human rights thinking and practice, focusing on people-centred perspectives and taking an integrated approach to research and learning. As a consequence, we have built, managed, and sustained a robust research network that has experienced important and, indeed, significant success in such a short period of time.

Our research strategy going forward is one of consolidation and continuity.

Consolidation and continuity to us are about focusing on the important questions that are challenging Africa, the AU and its Members and addressing them through innovative and often multi-disciplinary approaches that are designed to deliver impact where they are needed most – not just because the research is a good idea.


Policy Organs and Research Unit

The Policy Organs and Research Unit coordinates all the research work of the organization and work very closely with AU Watch Research Department. The objective of the Unit is to:

• Commission research and analysis at the regional level that strengthens the field and shapes its operations. It takes the lead carrying out state-of-the-art policy research leading to solutions to the challenges facing the AU and States Parties to the Constitutive Act;

• Provide a forum for discussion among all stakeholders in the AU policy process;

• Build collaborative networks of researchers, policy-makers and business representatives across the whole of Africa;

• Disseminate findings and views through a regular flow of publications and public events.

The objective of the Unit’s research work is to produce a variety of outputs, including edited volumes, policy and research briefs, guidelines and principles and reports of different kinds.

The Unit carries out its research via AU Watch Research Department and through collaborative research networks involving the active participation of other highly reputable institutes and specialists.

The Unit provides analysis on AU policies and about economic actors and the general public. It deals with a broad spectrum of analysis ranging from AU foreign policy, human rights and justice, AU politics and their institutions, agricultural and rural policy, AU financial institutions, classic security policy issues like elections and governance, trade, development, corruption, macro-economic policies of the AU, to aspects of climate protection and the practical and political challenges associated with resource scarcity.

The Unit also monitors the policies, projects and activities of the AU Watch’s Organs Program very closely. As the Secretariat of AU Watch, its technocrats ensure that the Executive Director receives timely and updated information about what is happening within AU policy organs.

What makes the AU Watch unique and stands out in relation to other bodies providing policy advice in Africa, is that apart from relying on the informed analytical expertise of its own researchers, who are largely independent about what they write, we are the only organization in Africa and probably in the world that uses outreach services, media and communication in the manner in which we do. Using all means possible —from radio, blogs, news and academic journals, web features, op-eds and TV appearances, to conferences, research reports, speaking engagements, and books — AU Watch works vigorously to present citizens with incisive and understandable analysis of the work of the AU, its institutions and programs. We run hundreds of private and public events – conferences, workshops and roundtables, interviews with leading AU personalities, radio and TV dramas, on stage performances, films, documentaries, seminars, yearly schools’ athletics, football and other sports competitions, mobile phone services and face-to-face communication. press conferences / briefings, schools / colleges debating competitions, moot court competitions for schools and colleges, spelling competitions for junior and senior schools and radio and TV debates on all AU matters. We also provide mentoring and training for journalists and development professionals.

Our Approach

AU Watch’s research programs are dedicated to the most pressing issues facing the AU, its Members and people. Led by our world renown experts, these programs are the intellectual foundation of AU Watch.Our research is grounded in the needs of the individuals, communities and organisations it serves, and focuses on bringing people together and providing new evidence, ideas and ways of thinking to help them in responding to the issues they face. We have many active partnerships with the AU and community groups.

We employ a range of innovative and participatory research methods with the objective of handing power from the researcher to research participants, enabling them to influence practice and policy development through evidence-based approaches.We regularly undertake independent research to develop and refine our work in social research methods. Our experts regularly present at highly regarded conferences and meetings all over the world.

AU Watch not only acts as a service provider through its procurement of up-to-date information and its needs-based advising, but also provides a venue for the execution of thorough analytical work. We attach particular importance to maintaining independence in selecting its focus areas

Other Research Methodologies Employed by Our Researchers

Research Impact

​Excellence with impact at AU Watch ​

At AU Watch we produce research which reflects our commitment to Excellence with Impact. This means our research goes beyond enhancing academic or scholarly knowledge and effects change in the wider world.Research for us is the effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia.

To ensure that good ideas become even better ones and that they also be heard, these ideas must be questioned and challenged. Using various mediums AU Watch serves above all as a forum for exchange and communication. We provide a platform for understanding the complex landscape of the AU and its members, by galvanizing our unique network of regional leaders, researchers, journalists, analysts and scholars – where decision makers can come together with our researchers and analysts to run through scenarios in a confidential atmosphere or to discuss issues of importance to them.

Understanding impact ​

We focus on ensuring that our research impacts those that need it most. We do this while ensuring that we maintain rigour, significance and overall excellence in the underpinning work that we conduct and this is evidenced through our portfolio of outputs in world leading outlets.

The different types of impact generated from different research projects can vary enormously- there’s no “one size fits all” approach. However, there are some general principles which are useful starting points when thinking about what impact encompasses.

​Impact is:

  • Influencing policy
  • Changing public opinion or informing debate
  • Generating income or enabling savings to be made
  • Improving systems, designs, or processes
  • Enhancing cultural enrichment

Where do you begin?
How you generate and demonstrate the impact of your research project will depend very much on the nature of the project. However, it is vital to consider impact from the outset. Who is likely to benefit from your research? How can you involve these stakeholders in your project? What evidence will you use to prove that the research had an impact?Asking these questions at an early stage will support your chances of ensuring that your research is impactful- and enhance the chances of it being used as a case study. Want to know more? Why not contact us?