This post comes a little late. It has been a busy year and, unfortunately, I have struggled to keep the website updated with all that has been happening.
In any case – I am pleased to announce that colleagues and I were successful in delivering five public seminars on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) this year, under the theme of ‘Partnering for impact on the SDGs: from local to global’.
Commencing in May and finishing in October, the series celebrated the applied research of JCU researchers and their external partners across Cairns, Townsville, the Wet Tropics, Northern Australia, and the Asia-Pacific. Presentations from more than 20 JCU academics received strong attendance.
In 2016, JCU became the first Australian university signatory to the SDGs. Through this commitment, JCU seeks to support and promote the principles of the SDGs through its research, teaching, and operations. This seminar series was one of the many ways in which JCU has continued to honour its SDGs commitments.
In my own presentation, I looked at what role International Service Learning (ISL) can play in contributing to the SDGs (see abstract below).
International Service Learning (ISL) has become a prevalent feature of both secondary and higher education in Australia. Motivations for engaging in ISL are diverse, but much of the recent enthusiasm in higher education stems from federal government funding schemes such as the New Colombo Plan and Endeavour Awards. In this presentation I consider what ‘best practice’ in ISL might look like, as well as how ISL can contributed to the advancement of the SDGs. A wide body of literature demonstrates that ISL can offer transformative learning experiences that foster inclusive ‘cosmopolitan’ values of a shared sense of humanity and respect across (and for) socio/cultural difference. However, an equally wide body of literature contends that ISL programs have the potential to reinforce problematic, Eurocentric, understandings of race, culture, and inequality that position the non-Western ‘Other’ as inferior and/or dependent on Western charity. Approaching ISL from the normative standpoint that inclusive leadership requires an openness to alternative ways of knowing, interpreting and being in the world, this paper explores some of the key opportunities and pitfalls that must be negotiated in order for ISL to serve as a vehicle for advancing the SDGs – and particular Goal 4, Target 7. Deliberations presented in this paper draw on my ongoing research partnership with ISL provider Rustic Pathways Travel. Each year approximately 10,000 students undertake Rustic programs across 93 community projects in 19 countries. To date, research for this project has included case study analysis of two Rustic programs; interviewing with Rustic senior staff and program leaders, as well as students and participating teachers; participant observation, and; deconstructive analysis of Rustic’s learning resources and marketing materials. At the heart of this presentation is the question of how ISL may begin students on a journey towards more active and engaged citizenship for inclusive sustainable development.