RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2018, Geographical landscapes / changing landscapes of geography
Members of the CoDesRes team travelled to Cardiff, Wales to present at the Royal Geographer’s Society Annual Conference. Below, you’ll find the perspectives of the event from each of our team who attended.
Anita McKeown: Principal Investigator
Hi my name’s Anita and I am the principal investigator for the CoDesRes project, Co-designing for Resilience in Rural Development through P2P knowledge networks and STEAM place-based learning interventions.
My presentation set out the project’s context, its aims and objectives, explained the underpinning methodology and offered an introduction to each of the work packages.
The project includes a unique art and design critical praxis that contributes to the development of sustainable communities through a focus on circular economies, waste as a resource and plastic pollution. The team are trialling this existing methodology, the pCr resilience praxis, which includes a practical tool kit and theoretical framework within education and community contexts. The aim of the project is to investigate the methodology for its ability to localise delivery on the Sustainable Development Goals and embed them in people’s daily lives.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (or Global Goals for Sustainable Development) are a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly, favouring collective action by all countries. As of 2016, implementation is described as "localizing the SDGs" to highlight the role of local institutions and local actors.
We are working with four goals in particular, SDG 4, 11, 14 and 15, selected for their relevance to the region, the Iveragh Peninsula. Co.Kerry. Kerry has the longest coastline in Ireland, with the Peninsula subject to a population decline of 41% (report presented to Minister of State Seán Kyne, 2017) with the predominant narrative from parents being – ‘we are raising our children to leave, there’s nothing here’.
The four goals can be summarised as;
Goal 4: Quality Education
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.
Goal 14: Life Below Water
Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
Goal 15: Life on Land
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
My role as PI is to train the other researchers in the pCr framework and support them in embedding the methodology and design thinking within the the three other work packages WP2 – Youth Transition WP3 – Community Transition and WP4 – Media Transition.
The project’s work packages are integrated through the pCr framework I developed, which is a systems approach to creative community engagement and development. The area’s core industries; fishing, agriculture and tourism are being impacted by social and environmental challenges and despite the concern there’s nothing here there are many opportunities not being explored. This will require creative engagement, innovation and a new way of looking at the area.
As an artist, I have worked in public and situated practice for over twenty-five years at the intersection of education and community development with an diverse range of organisations; Music in Prisons, Amigos Bravos water conservation, STEMarts, Lewisham Youth Theatre and with diverse constituents; elders, youth, community organisations and students of all levels.
This led to the development of a way of working within complex situations that is dynamic and adaptive and offers a set of tools to support anyone working this way. With support from the EPA, we are now able to develop the basic methodology towards a toolkit that enables teachers and students to engage with the Sustainable Development Goals and supports the work that local communities are doing.
The audience was small, but the reception was very good; with interests and direct contact with Dr Lopa University of Coventry, Dr Lise Serra, University of Reunion and two PhD Students; one in London and one from South Africa. The discussion was deeply engaged with attendants both asking questions and sharing insights from the their own research and interest to continue discussion further. We also had Dr Courage’s response as our discussant, which you can read here.
I have been attending geography conferences for the last five years as my practice is situated and therefore place-based and I see the role of geography as important, as everything happens somewhere. However, I think like many fields the social turn has overlooked systemic and art and design-led participatory approaches. The arts have a fifty- year heritage of non-object and participatory practices that have often developed innovative methods and have had to justify themselves and so, offer a range of best practice approaches for community projects and inclusive behaviour. Geographers, like other fields, are leaving the academy to undertake their research within social contexts using action and participatory methods. The potential for collaboration with projects like CoDesRes can only bring benefits for all involved.
Further, the importance of recognising the expertise and knowledge that is held in our communities cannot be overlooked, as with the aim for the SDGs local activism will be critical if we are to change behaviour in order to create a more equitable world; socially, environmentally and economically.
Lucy Hunt: WP2 Youth Transition Lead
I was excited to be with the CoDesRes team at the Cardiff RGS to present on the Work Package I am leading; influencing youth education through STEAM place-based interventions. Marine education and ocean literacy are key elements in Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water; one of which is a focus within the overall project.
It is a really important element for people to understand and I’m happy to be working with youth, connecting them to our blue heart and teaching critical thinking and enabling future-ready students to understand solution-based thinking to issues facing ocean health. The reception to the talk was really great; people were inspired by our multidisciplinary and integrated approach – something everyone agreed we need to see more of. Also, the audience could empathise with a lot of the challenges we see here in rural coastal communities coming from island nations and having worked in isolated locations around the world.
I think geographers can play a big part in this project through decentralisation and breaking down borders/barriers in planning and opportunities. It was a great opportunity to speak at this prestigious conference and also to spend time with our own team outside of the normal working hours was lovely!
Eleanor Turner: WP3 Community Transition Lead
I was presenting an introduction to Work Package 3 – Community Transition. First, I introduced the aims and actions planned for the Work Package. Introducing the targeted community groups and projects first, I then moved on to discuss how we have trialled methods of engagement at several community events and the learning we can take from those trials as we move into a more structured community delivery in the next phase of the project.
My role links to the project as a whole by using methods of co-creating with community groups on the Iveragh Peninsula to trial the pCr methodology to assist in the creation of a toolkit for community groups. I felt the talk went well; everyone laughed at my joke so that’s a win for me!
To begin with however, I was both disappointed and slightly relieved there wasn’t a bigger crowd in the room. By the end of the presentations and the discussion that followed though, I felt that it had been a blessing in disguise; those who were present were very engaged and expressed interest in following the project’s progression during its lifespan.
Colin Keogh: The Rapid Foundation CoDesRes Partner
I was presenting my work as part of the CoDesRes project which focused on embedding circular economies in community contexts through STEAM place-based interventions, namely through the utilization of waste as a resource. Waste is prevalent in every society, and feeds a throw-away culture, which in reality, the majority of the material we dispose of is highly valuable. I presented the work done to date on using waste materials in the local community as a valuable resource, to increase the understanding of the SDG goals and related issues, but also empower local people to create and produce as opposed to use and dispose of.
My work links up the the project as a whole by helping to relate the SDGs to people’s daily lives, help remove waste materials from the environment and to increase cohesion, not only between the community, but also between each SDG. The talks in our session were very well received, with great uptake and engagement from the audience. A number of attendees expressed in interest in collaborating with the project, and testing our systems in their own communities to try and tackle a range of issues.
Geographers play an important role in the work we do, as place-based learning leans heavy on the physical location, its issues and benefits and the people in the region. Connecting to people, problems and solutions requires a connection to the location also, which increases impact, interdisciplinary learning and outcomes.
For more info on Colin's work, watch his TedxUCD talk, here.
We are looking forward to presenting on the project at more conferences in 2019. Watch this space!