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Love Your Mug

3…2…1…Blast off! The ‘Love Your Mug’ initiative launches on Monday, March 20 – will you be along for the ride? This is a new and exciting adventure on the University of Dundee campus which transitions from the use of disposable tea and coffee cups to reusable mugs. MSc Sustainability students, in collaboration with DUSA and Dundee University, are selling University branded mugs – perfect for your next cuppa!

You will find ‘Love Your Mug’ mugs in all cafes for sale at £3 each or you can stop by and see us outside of the Union on launch day. Each purchase of a new mug comes with a free regular sized hot drink. And it gets even better! For each consecutive hot drink purchased in a reusable ‘Love Your Mug’ mug, you will enjoy 10p off the cost. But we’re not done yet. Personal reusable mugs other than those from the ‘Love Your Mug’ initiative will also be honoured at a 5p discount.

Perhaps it seems like a trivial amount of pennies saved per cup, but in a period of one year, the average consumer could save £15 just through individual 10p discounts from their reusable mug. That is 5 times the initial investment. Your investment in saving our environment is priceless!

The University of Dundee has a wonderful opportunity to contribute to a sustainable future and reduce the negative environmental impact paper cups have. In terms of waste attributed to landfills, many paper cups are forced to end up there; generally they cannot be recycled due to contamination and their plastic lining. In Scotland alone, we throw away 208 million each year; lined up, this would circle Earth! It is our hope that you will join with us in promoting this trifecta: love coffee, love your mug, and love the planet.

Look out for the link to take our short online survey to win a high-end espresso machine and fair trade coffee and remember to come join us at the ‘Launch Stall’ 10am-2pm Monday 20th March!

For more details contact us at LoveYourMug@DUSA.com

Falkland Estate

These are my people. Team Sustainability forever! Wait…no, I mean lifelong friends, not lifelong students. Please.

Part of the MSc Sustainability program is a core module called Research Training and Project Planning. For Dr. Mark Cutler and Dr. Ioan Fazey, we proposed and created a research proposal as practice for our dissertation.

Our class split into two groups of three and each had our own go at what I would call research to prepare for research. The projects we chose stemmed from common backgrounds and addressed issues relevant in Scotland and beyond. While these were only hypothetical research proposals, they were developed with such detail that they could be formally carried out if desired.

Between the two groups, there was a competition to see which project would win the imaginary pot of money to have our research ‘funded.’

My group and I found a common interest pertaining to urban agriculture and food security. Through our interests and our desire to address concerns in environmental, economic, and social realms, we created a research proposal called Growing A Sustainable Urban Food Supply (GASUFS).

GASUFS looked at the positive and negative impacts of urban agriculture on UK cities, identified potential for implementation, and was guided in part by US-based case studies.

Did someone say field trip?! To switch things up, the location for the presentations did not take place on campus. We travelled to the Centre for Stewardship at the Falkland Estate where we spent the day presenting our work, hiking through the beautiful grounds, participating in dissertation workshops, and listening to an ethics presentation from Dr. Ed Hall.

Team GASUFS walked away with the win (!!!), but the day was about more than the competition. We all walked away with a broader understanding of research methods and brushed up on our presentation skills; two things that will come in handy in these months leading up to our final MSc Sustainability deadline.

CECHR Annual Symposium

The sunshine and blue sky made their 2017 debut this past Wednesday, just in the nick of time for the annual CECHR Symposium. It turned out to be a wonderful day of presentations from many backgrounds; professors, PhD students, and professionals, all set the stage for exchanges of knowledge and constructive discussion. Not to mention the unlimited tea and coffee! The event took place at the West Park Conference Centre just a few minutes bike ride out Perth Road. Though, with the weather so delightful, I must admit I wouldn’t have minded if I had to bike nearly to Perth. 

Can we just talk about networking for a second? …talk about a buzz word! Usually, when I hear networking, I usually think of that thing my parents tell me to do making connections and developing relationships with people older than me and with higher academic degrees. Specifically, I think of people who have a significant interest in something I am trying to achieve or learn more about, have the experience to back it up, and can open doors for me. I tend to assume one would have to be older than me to fit that description. With that said, if you were to ask me today what networking means, I think you might get a different answer than you would have in the past.

After the CECHR Symposium, my definition of networking broadened and I understood and appreciated that I could – and should – aim to network with people my age as often as possible. While I often engage with my fellow students, it’s rare that I consider these engagements, ‘networking.’ But in reality, they are some of the best people I could network with.

I think it’s really important to have this group of bright, motivated, creative group of academics around me all the time and the CECHR event was another one of those times we could all bounce ideas off each other, open up in a setting that is different from the classroom, and dig into subjects which we didn’t even know we had interests in.

As an MSc student in sustainability with a background in environmental science, I really enjoyed how CECHR’s symposium was a combination of both the hard and soft sciences. PhD student, Nandan Mukherjee, touched on social and philosophical issues like our relationship with water while Dr. Mark Cutler dove into the hard sciences by studying tree mortality and using remote sensing to illustrate forest resilience.

Brief but thorough presentations were followed by time to converse in smaller groups with the presenter. The day elicited questions and discussion, and I will speak for everyone when I say we walked away with our minds racing and a refreshed attitude.

One of my favorite analogies of the day was from Tony Hodgson when he explained how hard it is to make significant change in dealing with resistance. His example was of a massive ship on the sea struggling to turn and the rudder of that ship needed large amounts of energy to do so. However, if a small rudder is put on the big (for lack of better adjectives) rudder, it helps turn the big rudder which turns the ship and contributes considerably to the whole process. We can see these sort of catalytic relationships in most everything we do and I thought this example really highlighted the very thing that CECHR stands for, metaphorically and literally.

Thanks for spending the day feeding our brains and bellies, CECHR!!

Learning from experiences: Some reflections on my UNESCO Internship with Disaster Risk Reduction

UNESCO Case Study

1) Introduction

This short case study outlines a two month internship at UNESCO’s HQ in Paris working with Disaster Risk Reduction Programs. It gives a brief background of UNESCO’s work, and details key areas of learning gained from the internship which is based on non-participatory observations and personal reflection.

2) Summary key points

  • Inclusive learning with a focus on vulnerable groups as change agents is worthwhile
  • Accessible knowledge exchange from across different stakeholder groups can create impact if it is captured
  • Multilateral engagement in processes are more rewarding than bi-lateral structures for developing DRR intelligence
  • Creating spaces creates unlikely alliances and networks which use resources and efforts more effectively

3) UNESCO Background

UNESCO stands for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, and is a specialised agency which first originated in 1946. Its purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, science, and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the UN Charter. It is recognised as being the intelligence organisation of the United Nations and focuses on five major priority areas and include; Education, Social Science, Culture and Communication Information and Natural Sciences. It is within the Natural Sciences priority area where Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) programs which also include Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation exist. Due to UNESCO’s diverse range of priority areas, UNESCO has such a multidisciplinary approach to the development of DRR intelligence spanning 45 years, with studies on earthquakes and oceanography dating back to the 1960s. As a result of UNESCO’s expertise in over the decades it has developed a pioneering shift in thinking about DRR away from post-disaster reaction to pre-disaster action.

UNESCO’s work is underpinned by the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), which focus around poverty, equality, health, sustainable development and education (UNESCO, 2014). This can be seen in UNESCO’s approach to DRR which was announced during the International Disaster Reduction Day in 2004: “disaster reduction emphasises that crucial role of human thought and action in the minimization of risk where need to educate people, in particular young people, about disasters and the implications for the way we live.”(Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO). With such strong links between the aims of MDG’s and DRR, UNESCO understands its role to be about strengthening the interface between education, science, communication and culture with a particular focus on learning as a key element of developing a ‘culture of prevention’ (UNESCO 2014).

4) What did the placement involve?

I was involved with the Gender Equality (GE) department working on DRR related projects; as women and children are classed as being the most vulnerable groups in society, DRR related projects represented a large portion of the GE Program. During the placement I had the opportunity to liaise with colleagues across all priority areas during DRR meetings. This provided a good insight into how UNESCO’s multidisciplinary approach was able to cultivate a global culture of resilience through not only the content of UNESCO’s programs but also how it operated as an organisation. For instance, a strong ethos of UNESCO’s work within DRR is the requirements if new partnerships which can draw together stakeholders from all levels of society, across different regions, sectors and disciplines. In addition to the active approach to partnership development, UNESCO’s projects are created so to be more multi-lateral than bi-lateral, where relationships on a horizontal rather than vertical (top-down) are fostered in the development and implementation of a project. This is done during different phases of a project, for instance during the development of a project during meetings, field agents local to a particular area will be contacted and asked for local specific advice and updates. Most importantly however, UNESCO works directly with communities, and builds alliances which and tap into existing knowledge capacities. These relationships of knowledge are continually built upon and which also result in a tradition of feedbacks from the community, and for this reason multilateral structures are the most efficient.

In addition to this, colleagues working on different priority area will be able to scope out the projects aims and collaborate on the outcomes and outputs which synthesises their efforts and resources. Understanding this interconnectivity at an international level was personally very beneficial for gaining an insight into how the make-up of an organisation and its networks are able to best share and develop learning. For instance, UNESCO exists as a kind of membership body of around 195 Member States representing a vast and vibrant community of expertise and international insights, which come together regularly to discuss issues. This allows UNESCO to be as permeable to knowledge as possible by having an international expert community providing real time information which can be turned into lessons for sharing. This was very interesting to learn about from an international perspective, as my research looks at community stakeholder group’s engagement with policy processes and so understanding how UNESCO develops projects involving members from different groups in societies was very worthwhile.

Separate to being involved in cross-priority meetings, I also assisted in the development of a DRR e-learning platform which was to be used by vulnerable groups specifically women and young people in communities recognised as risk sensitive ( i.e. climatic variability, economic or political hazard). The course was specifically designed to be accessible for a variety of learner’s backgrounds, and that used limited text, in favour of emotional prompts which developed learning about local risks and skills in preparedness through a realistic narrative. As part of the task, I was involved in reviewing a selection of bids from various webpage developers who had previous experience in creating e-learning platforms which due to the nature of the project, involved criteria such as accessibility to terminology, inclusive design such as ‘friendly’  user prompts and existing experience with developing e-learning for vulnerable groups.

Whilst women are considered the most vulnerable groups in society they are also recognised as the most underused resource in DRR, which was raised during a seminar for UNESCO colleagues titled Gender in Disaster Risk Reduction. My role was to support the development of the seminar by assisting with conference room bookings, communicate with colleagues and source case studies. An interesting aspect of this training was how it was framed; this was the second seminar on the subject and there was some useful deliberation on whether it should be classed as an introduction or a review. This was an interesting dialogue to be part of because it gave a perspective that whilst UNESCO are a key actor in developing DRR intelligence, they are also as an organisation on their own journey, which could be seen across many other organisations involved in developing DRR programs.  Similar to this, another beneficial insight from the internship was understanding UNESCO’s current attempts at transformation; UNESCO like many other organisations have experienced increasing limitations on their resources, and as a consequence of this the organisation is currently going through its own restructure which has encouraged new methods of assessing a projects performance such as its timescale, method of evaluation, and how effective its means at disseminating learning are. In this respect, whilst UNESCO is a very large international organisation, as an intern during this time it was a useful insight to understand that it too was agile in how it operated.

5) Main findings – clearly explained.

The main findings of this placement with UNESCO are based on my fist hand experiences as an intern working with DRR related projects. The most impressive learning that I took away from the experience was that creating the right kinds of spaces and networks are really fundamental for shaping effective DRR projects. UNESCO has such a wealth of expertise made up in the fabric of its membership that it can gain intelligence from the community setting, as well as that of the field practitioners, but what is key to the success of its projects is the level by which UNESCO aligns people across the stakeholder groups to play an inclusive role. This insight represents that learning can and does come from different levels of society either by one community’s experience of a hazard or a review of a project, but what is important is for the experience to be captured and the knowledge shared so that it can be accessed by different communities for their own DRR needs.

In creating the right opportunities for stakeholder groups to engage, project outcomes and outputs can be merged together, and resources and efforts made best use of which is an effective approach given the current stress on resources. But opportunities to unify projects like this is largely only possible when people across the priorities are able to come together and talk about their projects using time specially allocated for DRR interests. In this respect, whilst an organisation at an either international or national level has diverse interests and responsibilities, there are often overlaps which can be combined.

6) Conclusion

In conclusion to this case study, my experience with UNESCO has led me to think more critically about how processes of learning can in themselves be an effective outcome for developing a culture of DRR. It has led me to reflect on how the DRR culture is being cultivated within Scotland across stakeholder groups, and whether the processes of developing this culture is influenced by the types of structures that are in place. As an experience, this placement has helped me understand that there is so much learning to be shared which can further DRR efforts, even if it is something as simple as a post evaluation tool used by participants or practitioners which assesses their learning post involvement with a DRR project. This has helped me to define the topic of my PhD research in collaboration with the Scottish Government Resilience Division where I am interested to know about how tools and processes for resilience learning can influence effective policy processes. Through this I will be exploring what kinds of networks, processes and tools stakeholder groups, particular those from the community currently use for sharing learning to see if there is an opportunity to better capture and mainstream this information.

6) Some useful links for anyone who wants to know more

Information on the Millennium Development Goals http://www.unesco.org/bsp/eng/mdg.htm

Information on Gender Equality http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/themes/gender-equality/about-us/

Information on developing culture of resiliency through education http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/leading-the-international-agenda/education-for-sustainable-development/disaster-risk-reduction/

7) References

UNESCO (2014) http://portal.unesco.org/es/ev.php-URL_ID=23109&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html1455179_10101224969544989_1724546977_n