The South African Research Chair Initiative (SARChI) was established in 2006 by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the National Research Foundation (NRF). The aim of the initiative is to strengthen and improve research at public universities across South Africa and to build research capacity of students and emerging scholars.
Professor Leila Patel was named the South African Research Chair in Welfare and Social Development in 2015. Since then she has been working hard to build research capacity among young researchers and to grow postgraduate studies in the field of social development.
By providing strategic support and funding to outstanding researchers with vast experience and knowledge, DST and the NRF aim to support universities to nurture postgraduate students with high potential and invest in improving innovation and research output at universities.
As a Tier 1 Chair, Prof Patel joined the ranks of a distinguished group of researchers who are committed to expanding South Africa’s scientific research base in order to support the country’s national development agenda. The work of the SARCHI Chair in Welfare and Social Development also involves putting South Africa on the map as an internationally competitive, globally relevant knowledge society.
Prof Patel is keenly aware of the need for research capacity in social development and as a result she has prioritised nurturing and developing a new generation of social development scholars during her time as the SARCHI Chair in Welfare and Social Development.
In addition to holding this prestigious position, Prof Patel is the founding director of the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Social Development in Africa (CSDA), a position she held for 15 years. Her work at the CSDA has focused on how to use cutting-edge research to inform the theory and practice of social development not only nationally but on the ground in communities across South Africa.
Holding the position of SARCHI Chair in Welfare and Social Development helps to build on the strengths of the CSDA and creates valuable opportunities to enhance the work in which the Chair is involved with. The SARCHI Chair in Welfare and Social Development is housed in the CSDA and conducts research in poverty, inequality and vulnerability with a focus on women, children, youth, people with disabilities and in social protection, monitoring and evaluation of developmental social welfare policies and services.
South Africa is a leader in social policy and development in the global South, as a result Prof Patel is using the SARCHI Chair in Welfare and Social Development to make a significant contribution to innovative new approaches to social development in the region.