Research Themes

My research is organized around several themes that span the science of politics, education, social innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Science of Politics

My research interests are at the intersection of international relations and comparative politics revolving around four themes. First, I explore how regional organizations contribute to democratization and democratic consolidation with a focus on regional institutions, including the African Union, and international law.

Second, I explore public opinion in several areas that span international relations, such as perceptions of regional organizations, international law, and intervention, and comparative politics, such as perceptions of election quality, political parties, and basic freedoms. In particular, I examine how changing urban spaces and city limits shape opportunities for political mobilization and activism. My experience working for Afrobarometer has motivated me to learn from the voices of the people and consider the ways in which their experiences and views can inform people-centered regional integration, democratic deepening, and public policy.

Third, on the theme of deepening participatory democracy, I consider the relative influence of domestic and international factors that shape election quality and perceptions of election quality.

Fourth, I explore the factors that shape elite perceptions of political institutions and political party structures, as well as the reasons why elite and citizen attitudes may converge or diverge. This theme emerged during my extensive in-country intimate research experiences interviewing and shadowing political rulers and activists. We often speak about good “leadership,” but the very concept of “leadership” approach or style is undertheorized and understudied.

Education +
Social Innovation

Beyond my social science research interests and growing out of my international education efforts, I explore the application of educational technology and learners’ performance. As part of this research, I am particularly interested in how diverse learning spaces – often connected through digital means – may foster higher rates of collaboration and engagement, cross-cultural competencies, and skills learning.

Finally, as someone who embraces translational research, I examine approaches to using education and research to inform social innovations. This involves mechanisms of translation and the exploration of new financial mechanisms (e.g., impact investment) that seek to mobilize resources and shift paradigms of entrepreneurship.

Samuel Eduam on "Translating Research into Financial Inclusion" (2023)


I have conducted research in several African countries across research projects, including Botswana at the Southern African Development Community, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia at the African Union, Kenya, Nigeria at the Economic Community of West African States, South Africa, Tanzania at the East African Community, and Zimbabwe.

My present book project entitled, My Brother’s Keeper? The Effects of African Regional Organizations on Election Quality, relies on over 300 extended elite interviews. The book project reflects my belief in a mixed methods approach to research.

Peter Penar, PHD

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia