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What to expect from the call for proposals to address mental health and wellbeing of young people

Through the Being initiative, the SFA Foundation issued a call for proposals to support multidisciplinary research networks that foster cross-continental collaboration geared towards understanding and addressing knowledge gaps related to the impact of emerging stressors on the mental health and wellbeing of youth in February. In this Q&A session, Byron Bitanihirwe, the Programme Manager for Mental Health at SFA Foundation, articulates the crucial significance of the call and delineates the distinguishing factors that could elevate applicants above their peers.

The premise and focus of the call

  • Why the specific focus on youth mental health and how does this fit in the SFA Foundation’s strategic direction?
    A. Youth mental health is integral to building positive social and emotional thinking that in turn help the individual develop into confident and independent adults who can make a meaningful contribution to their society. By focusing on youth mental health the Being funding call aims to respond to Africa's sustainable development challenges and positively impact lives, both of which represent the SFA Foundation's strategic direction.
  • Which countries are you targeting and why?
    A. We are targeting 13 focal low-and middle-income countries that span 4 continents (Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America) in the hope of building knowledge and research capacity across these continents. Notable in this regard are the estimates suggesting that ~90% of youth (aged 10 to 24) live in low- and middle-income countries, an aspect that provides further impetus for the need to study the impact of   emerging stressors on youth mental health in the 13 selected countries.

Key aspects to keep in mind when developing your application

  • What would make an application stand out? OR what are you looking for?
    A. The expert research panel who will be in charge of assessing applications (and not us) will be looking for a solid and well thought out proposal that focuses on capturing new knowledge in relation to the effect of stressors on youth mental health. They will be looking for solid cross-national collaborations that stand out in terms of the expertise of the consortia and how the collaborations 'fit’ in terms of answering the research question. But most importantly they will be looking for a proposal that addresses each of the key principles highlighted in the guidance notes for applicants.
  • Can applications from other countries be submitted to this call?
    A. Please refer to the 6 eligibility requirements in the eligibility section guidelines available here:
  • Are the list of stressors highlighted in relation to the funding call exhaustive?
    A. This is the list that will be standard for the Being Initiative call. It evolved from 3 exercises:
    1. country level reports for each of the focal countries that were commissioned by Grand Challenges Canada focused on  better understanding what and how stressors are related to youth mental health. Grand Challenges Canada is one of Being's global partners that include Fondation Botnar, United for Global Mental Health, Orygen and the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care using UK aid through the National Institute for Health and Care Research.
    2. Virtual convenings that engaged with a variety of stakeholders (e.g., people with lived experiences of mental health conditions, researchers and clinicians, mental health experts) from the 13 focal countries;
    3. a physical convening of mental health experts on youth mental health who represented 11 of the 13 countries of interest and where a research prioritisation exercise was conducted in terms of understanding what stressors are seen as the most pressing deserving of research.     
  • What are the countries for the Lead Institution?
    A. Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan, Romania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Vietnam
  • Can a partner institution come from a non-focus country?
    A. At least two partner institutions must be based in the focus countries. A collaborating institution could be based in any country.          
  • Can you work on more than one application?
    A. The lead can only submit one application. However, they can be partners in more than one consortium.
  • Can students who are at the end stage of their PhD and are beginning their independent research apply?
    A. While we highly encourage applications from early career scientists. It is assumed that these applicants already hold a PhD with some post-doctoral experience. It is envisioned that applications that do stem from early career researchers (as the lead applicant) will include senior and experienced researchers as co-applicants to help support and drive the project objectives.
  • Can one of the partner institutions come from the same country as the Lead Institution?
    A. Yes, this is possible as long as the lead is also from a focal country.     

Match Making and establishing Collaborative Networks

  • Is there a platform to facilitate matchmaking?
    A. Yes, we plan on making the platform available to applicants during the course of the week.       
  • If I get a partner, can I continue to search for matchmaking in order to make a consortium of 5 institutions?
    A. You can possibly. Remember that 5 institutions is only a recommendation and not prescriptive. Select the number of institutions that best suit your research programme, to a minimum of 3 institutions.
  • Where do we access the match-making questionnaire?
    A. The form in question can be accessed by clicking on the following link:
  • Can an institution form a partner with another institution from within the same country without matchmaking?
    A. Yes you can. If you have already identified partners with similar interests, you can go ahead with consortium formation without going through matchmaking. 
  • Why the focus on collaborative networks? And what advice or support would you give to those researchers looking for partners in countries outside of their own?
    A. Collaborative networks expand the possibilities of discovery and provide an effective mechanism for accelerating knowledge transfer into policy and practice. When considering identifying partners outside of your own country it is important to apply due diligence. For instance, beyond looking to see as to whether your research interests overlap, consider what skills and expertise the potential collaborator can offer but also look at their track record in terms of publications and other academic output/s. More importantly, where do the synergies lie between yourself and the potential collaborator?

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