Highlighting EPIC at the African Regional online Teach-In on Climate and Justice- A blog by START’s Mzime Murisa
June 9, 2022

Recently, I was invited by the African Network of Young Leaders for Peace and Sustainable Development (ANYL4PSD) to be a Speaker at the African Regional online Teach-In on Climate and Justice, an event that was held May 12 and 13, 2022.  The intention of this event, which was the ANYL4PSD’s contribution to the WorldWide Teach-In on Climate and Justice was to show the ANYL4PSD community of African young people the interest and intention, of cultivating climate activism and conscious education.

 The event organizers requested that I prepare a presentation and record a 15-minute talk. Specifically, the assignment required that I introduce the EPIC-Network, the model of university-government-community partnerships, and share experiences from the projects implemented in Africa by giving examples from the EPIC team in the city of Durban, South Africa, where an EPIC project focused on adaptation to climate change in informal settlements there. Durban has been implementing the Education Partnerships for Innovation in Cities (EPIC) model for about 5 years now.

The EPIC model, in essence, is really a streamlined way of organizing a tri-partite partnership between universities, local governments, and communities in collaboratively working together to solve issues on the ground. And in all of this, students are the glue that transcends and navigates the dynamics of the three partners by working with universities under curriculum development while proffering solutions for and with communities that local governments often have no or little access to at the grassroots level. START has partnered with EPIC, UNEP-GAN, and the USA’s EPA in supporting the internationalization of EPIC across the world. To learn more about the EPIC model, the EPIC-Africa network, and the experiences of EPIC across Africa including Durban see, here, here and here.

 I have prepared and made numerous presentations before as part of my academic, research, and administrative roles over the past two decades and across the African continent. However, the ask from ANYL4PSD was slightly different, or so I thought; instead, it turned out to be very different for me. ANYL4PSD requested that I not only work on a PowerPoint (PPT) presentation but to record myself going through the presentation. This took me aback a bit. This is because I have seen such an arrangement before, but it was in the rare case that the presenter could not make it to an event such as a webinar, workshop, and/or conference and so they would then ‘present’ in absentia through a recording. And so therein lay my dilemma. If you are like me who works well under pressure, you would know that preparing both a PowerPoint presentation and a recording well in advance and for an audience that you will not be ‘interacting’ with face-to-face is a bit of a daunting task.

 And so, I began working on the assignment and one of the things I had to do was rehearse before I made a final recording. Fortunately, Microsoft has a build-in coach and rehearsal feature in PowerPoint that worked well for me. I practiced a couple of times and I received feedback from the ‘Coach’ which was quite useful and constructive. Despite the time that it took to iteratively go through the practice, this experience was quite enriching. This is because as I listened to my recordings, I was able to pick up on issues such as low pitch or voice projections, unclear words, and expressions. Also, I discovered my common and filler words and expressions as well as instances where I tended to read from the slide when I should have been talking over the main points given the short time that I was given for the presentation.

When I finished, I sent the PPT presentation together with the recording to the event organizers. But alas, I immediately received a response from them that there had been a miscommunication. For them, a ‘recording’ meant a video while I had done an audio recording! And if you are camera shy like me, you would know that recording a video of oneself going through a presentation to an unknown audience, is nerve-wracking! And so, I set about doing a video recording to replace the audio version. I was surprised that it was hard for me to practice the presentation and recording over video. For one thing, I had to look presentable and that’s a story for another day from the experiences of a multitasking working mum who works from homeNo photo description available.

Finally, I sent in the last version that I had recorded and was glad that I could call it a day and put this experience behind me. However, when I sent the precious video recording, I mentioned to the organizers that I would be interested in joining the workshop. This was because I was terribly curious to firstly, see and learn how a teach-in goes and of course to also check out how my recorded presentation would look. To my surprise, I was then registered as a speaker and not a mere participant and before I knew it or could refuse, arrangements were being made for me to present the PPT live. Imagine, after all my efforts with the recordings! Soon, I found myself as the first speaker on the second day of the event. This meant that I could get the presentation over and done with and then attend the rest of the event in peace.

 The first thing I noticed was that most of the participants were from the French-speaking part of our continent. Therefore, translations of the English presentations into French by a French translator were done as live audio presentations, immediately after each presentation in English was done.  I had only ever seen translations being done as subtitles or through the provision of an option for those who do not understand the language being used to listen to a translator during the presentation, so this was new for me.

 Despite all the technicalities, I enjoyed the experience of being part of the Teach-in, and next time, I will not be so lost. If you would like to learn more about and listen to the recordings of the African Regional online Teach-In on Climate and Justice, they are available on YouTube and Facebook. Additionally, you are cordially invited to join us at the virtual EPIC-N conference from 13th June to 15th June 2022. You can register here for our session on EPIC programs from Asia and Africa. This will be held on Monday 13th June 2022 from 09:00 to 12:00 (GMT+2 CAT time). Also, you can join us at the Sustainability Research and Innovation (SRI) Congress 2022 for our hybrid session on EPIC on June 21 2022 from 5- 6:30 PM CAT. We have an exciting lineup of speakers talking about experiences from EPIC Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean as well as the USA.

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