Monday, September 13, 2010

Our Vision/Mission/Goals - what we're actually up to!


Note for introduction which is being developed. The purpose of developing the consortium is to build a critical mass of highly qualified people and the knowledge base to enable all to be better able to deal with climate change issues. Such a group of people would be able to respond on an academic, business, environmental, social and governmental level as well as apply for grants and funding to strengthen the response to climate change.

            Eastern Cape, National, International
The Eastern Cape is a particularly exciting place to develop issues pertaining to environmental change and the promotion of sustainability.

On the one hand it has the huge challenge of developing sustainable livelihoods of rural and coastal, resource dependent communities. Poverty and sustainability within these communities are issues of grave concern as such impoverished people have no choice but to adopt unsustainable practices. This point regarding poverty of resource dependent communities is clearly depicted in government documents as a national priority. Although the rural and coastal communities of the Eastern Cape are poor, they also have rich indigenous knowledge and cultural history. Every consortium member has involvement in better understanding such issues.

On the other hand the Eastern Cape has industrial cities, numerous towns and areas of conservation and of over exploitation.

The critical mass of capable people in SEACC are already experienced in these environments and are making positive scientific, socio-economic, anthropological and educational contributions to resolving problems.

A particularly exciting feature of the Eastern Cape is that it holds many opportunities to take a leadership role in promoting sustainable ways of life:

  • the cities and towns are not too big to become carbon neutral,
  • the communities are willing to participate and
  • there are many enthusiastic people throughout the Eastern Cape willing to play a role.

Success, therefore, depends upon a nexus of academia (provided mainly by SEACC), Government (national and local) and business to collectively serve civil society. The Global Change Grand Challenge of DST, for example, provides a superb frame work for a unifying theme that would enable SEACC to contribute to national priorities.

Nexus of academia, business and government serving the people of South Africa
Working with the nexus partners is fundamentally important. Issues of climate change and the need to find sustainable answers to so many challenges requires a concerted team effort. National government has the role of setting national agendas and to influence thinking on the continent and globally. SEACC would like to work with government to achieve national aspirations. Similarly, local government, both provincial and municipal, and SEACC have opportunities for team work that will benefit the constituents of the Eastern Cape.

Business is a major player and often a driver of positive environmental initiatives. Among the positive developments is the increasing attention that “Sustainability” is receiving, especially since the King Commission III made “Sustainability” a corner stone of the evaluation process in measuring success of companies.

            Combining strengths in a consortium while maintaining sovereignty

Consortium is defined as

“a pooling of resources of the member organizations to share human and material assets as well as to link academic and administrative resources to achieve common goals”.

While the consortium does bring many advantages to each institution, it does not in anyway detract from the independence of each entity or encroach on the sovereignty of member universities and NGOs. It offers the opportunity to operate collectively for mutual benefit and, of course, the strength of providing a larger more effective critical mass of experts who are involved in teaching, research, public participation and development of strategies for sustainable ways of life. The consortium also provides a unified strength that will enable the consortium members to collectively compete for important bids and contract opportunities which would be more likely to succeed than if individual organisations operated alone.

Origins of SEACC.

Expertise in environmental and climate change in the Eastern Cape is excellent, but lacked a cohesive structure. Therefore, three universities and two NGOs have formed a nucleus of a consortium to provide and grow an effective critical mass in which to grow capacity, promote excellence and offer improved opportunities to students and staff while interacting positively with nexus partners and civil society.

A vision statement is “Promoting sustainability through knowledge” or more simply “Sustainability through knowledge”.

In essence, the consortium members would like to develop and impart the knowledge with which to sensibly promote sustainable ways of life and responsible behaviour. A fundamental precept of SEACC is to ensure that actions are informed by a sound knowledge-base rather than being emotionally driven. Therefore goals are to build knowledge, take knowledge to the people and encourage everyone to choose sustainable ways of life whether they are in a village, the office, a factory, at home, in the garden, in agriculture or in fisheries. In this regard the universities in the consortium are the primary (but not exclusive) developers of knowledge and builders of capacity and the NGOs the primary (but not exclusive) disseminators of knowledge.  (see notes on vision at the end of this doc).

            Universities primary developers of knowledge
The universities in the consortium will be more closely involved in the formal teaching of issues of sustainability (used here almost synonymously with counteracting negative environmental change while favouring positive actions that improve the environment), conducting research to increase knowledge that will lead to better individual, local, regional management of the environment. Ultimately, in some small way, local success may contribute to global improvement.

NGOs primary communicators of knowledge by involving others
The NGOs in the consortium are less involved in those primary functions of universities, though they also support university research and teaching when appropriate. NGOs are more involved in taking the knowledge generated to the public and encouraging people to use the most relevant knowledge to guide sustainable behaviour in their every day lives, whether it is at home, in the garden, in the office, with regard to travel options, in recreation and in agriculture, forestry or fishing.

Combined strengths help stakeholders in government, business and civil society
The perceived strength of the universities and NGOs acting together in this consortium is the knowledge generated by universities can be more readily carried to stakeholders by the NGOs. Success will be reflected by the manner in which stakeholders use the knowledge. Stakeholders include national government departments, municipalities, schools, environmental clubs, chambers of commerce and individuals.

Achieving the vision
To achieve the vision the universities and NGOs in the consortium will use knowledge to promote sustainable ways of life that will contribute to the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change. As indicate above, the responsibilities are shared.  

Shared activities include:
·         working in a nexus of academia (SEACC), business, and government to promote sustainable actions ’
·         making knowledge available to stakeholders, including planners and managers in urban, agrarian, riparian and coastal areas, village communities; to local and national governments in order to contribute to more sustainable management of resources and where applicable to the shaping of policy and to business to help guide choices
·         developing credibility as a strong identifiable unit with a critical mass of experts;
·         competing successfully for bids, grants, donations and contracts;
·         growing a track record of success which leads to the recognition of SEACC as a leader in African climate and sustainability issues;
·         publishing  activities of SEACC for the benefit of all consortium members, for government and business,
·         promoting, mainly through young people, a crusade for change to develop responsible “transient caretakers” to develop a momentum that leads to sustainable practices becoming an ethical imperative.

Those shared activities in which universities play a primary role include:
·         generating knowledge through original research, studies (literature and other sources), attending conferences and workshops;
·         using knowledge in teaching, in mentoring and in guiding students as well as interacting with the public, producing publications and presenting public lectures,
·         developing a critical mass of top quality teachers and research supervisors in all disciplines encompassing climate change and sustainability by sharing expertise between consortium members cost-effectively in teaching undergraduates and post graduates,
·         producing graduates and post-graduates in the area of climate change and sustainability who will in their own right become effective professionals;
·         using skills in architecture, engineering, health, agriculture and conservation management to pioneer new ways to reduce negative impacts of human activities on the environment, finding ways to reduce poverty and developing sustainable livelihoods, while promoting positive impacts through use of improved products and behaviour.
·         increase strengths in climate change research and data management

Those shared activities in which NGOs play a primary role include:

·         using knowledge in interactions with civil society, at schools, in businesses, in conservation areas and in interactions with government to promote sustainability
·         promoting public awareness through involvement that leads to sustainable actions;
·         raising funds to maintain the activities of the consortium

Partners to the consortium
Associated Institutions.
Associated institutes at universities are included in the consortium under the umbrella of the universities. For example, at Rhodes University there are a number of associated institutes, including SAIAB and SAEON, Institute for Water Research, Institute of Social and Economic Research and others which are included in the consortium by association. Some associated institutions have expressed an interest in becoming core consortium members in their own right. This is being considered by the Steering Committee.

Partner Universities and Institutions
Every department and institution of a university within the consortium is a member, but in addition partners at other universities (e.g. UCT, Wits) and research organisations (e.g. CSIR) nationally and internationally, drawn from specific departments, are collaborating on projects, proposals and bids. Such partners are not consortium members, but valuable colleagues and partners. Some other universities or NGOs may become full consortium members in the future.

Multidisciplinary approach
A multidisciplinary approach is an imperative which involves a full spectrum of departments and faculties. Such a transdisciplinary approach reflects the realities of climate and environmental issues, they transcend every discipline and human action. Therefore, sustainable practices affect every discipline from accounting to zoology.

Geographic focus.
The founding nucleus of the consortium is based in the Eastern Cape, where a strong local focus will automatically predominate. However:
  • expertise and strengths already exist to meet national needs in accordance with national policies
  • when required, particularly if international bids are won that demand it, consortium members may operate anywhere on the continent,
  • the door to include partners and consortium members from firstly the Eastern Cape and secondly elsewhere in Africa is being kept open and
  • partnerships with other groups, consortia, organizations and institutions nationally and internationally are be fostered so that SEACC benefits from an exchange of expertise with other organisations, joint project applications, shared and joint research programmes and shared teaching opportunities.

Research, teaching (including MSc & PhD) and contracts.

SEACC members are planning to combine strengths where expedient to develop formal recognised teaching courses, offer outstanding degrees in “climate change” and sustainability at the undergraduate and post graduate levels. Details of how this might be achieved are being developed. There is a need to find a way to circumvent the tendency among teaching departments within individual universities to compete for students. The consortium favours collaboration over competition.
Prominent lecturers
Prominent lecturers from elsewhere will be encouraged to give presentations to consortium members and to impart knowledge that will strengthen the consortium. At least three per year are to be planned. Such lectures will be open to the public so that the consortium serves the broad stakeholder base. The public lecture could be opened by a senior public figure.

Structure of the consortium
The bonds of the consortium are through Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) between members. The MOU provides the umbrella under which Agreements are to be developed.

Each consortium member is represented on the steering committee by two nominated individuals whose duties are defined by the MOU.
Serving Nexus partners

In addition to meeting the internal requirements of the SEACC members in the academic component of the nexus with business and government, SEACC will also serve its nexus partners. The services that are to be offered to national and local government are being defined in a business plan

NOTES on development of Vision:

Universities wish to provide the knowledge base for mitigation of climate change, to teach well, conduct research and build capacity serving people.
NGOs wish to mobilise people, support universities in their endeavours and lead public awareness. All wish to use their capacity to promote sustainable ways of life.

Knowledge to underpin for sustainability
Sustainable choices through knowledge
Building knowledge for sustainable ways of life
Promoting sustainability through knowledge
Sustainability through knowledge

Sustainability has meaning to business, science and the general populace and in each case it is taking actions that care for the environment and will reduce impacts on climate change. We can explore this in a text somewhere in which the different interpretations are given. In many respects, however, all actions taken in an effort to combat climate change are associated with a movement from unsustainable activities to those which are sustainable; sustainability is, therefore, the key word in climate change.
Promotion is through our own behaviour and the examples we set, through the courses we teach, through involving the public and in each case knowledge, understanding and facts will guide us. The universities in particular are in the business of knowledge; increasing knowledge through research and using knowledge to in teaching and building capacity. The NGOs may be more in the business of taking that knowledge to the public and helping them to make informed decisions regarding their behaviour in which sustainable behaviour is preferred to those actions which are unsustainable.

Web searches (good but not exhaustive) showed that there are no clashes with the wording and that there are a variety of scholarly books and papers which indicate that our views of what is intended by the vision are appropriate and accurately reflect the academic overtones which we wish to impart.

I am not sure that we need specifically to provide a mission statement, but prefer to move directly from vision to a statement which says to achieve the vision the universities and NGOs in the consortium will, inter alia:

·          work with government and business in a nexus of academia (SEACC), business, and government to promote sustainable actions’
·         guiding planners and managers in urban, rural and coastal areas;
·         developing credibility as a strong identifiable unit that will become recognized and in demand;
·         developing a critical mass of leaders as teachers and research supervisors in climate change top quality
·         competing successfully for bids, grants, donations and contracts;
·         growing a track record of success which leads to the recognition of SEACC as a leader  in African climate issues;
·         sharing expertise between consortium members cost-effectively in teaching undergraduates and post graduates,
·         producing graduates and post-graduates in the area of climate change;
·         publicising activities of SEACC for the benefit of all consortium members
·         promoting public awareness that leads to sustainable actions;
·         increasing strengths in climate change research and data management
·         using skills in architecture, engineering, health, agriculture and conservation management to pioneer new ways to reduce negative impacts of human activities while promoting positive impacts through use of improved products and behaviour which promotes sustainability .

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