As the MIDPA Student Representative, Oliver Chapman recently attended the MDP Global Association Summit to represent the MIDP student body and to establish links with the other student associations and global network representatives. This role enables our voices as students, and our interests and achievements to be heard at an international level.
As part of the Student Representative role, Oliver has shared the following highlights from the Summit, with an introduction to the MDP Global Association.
What is the MDP Global Association?
The association was launched in 2007 with the aim of improving the leadership and training of future development practitioners who were to begin working in the field of development. A yearlong International Commission on Education for Sustainable Development Practice, led by the Earth Institute, aimed to identify practical initiatives to support an emerging field of cross-disciplinary ‘sustainable development practice’. This ultimately led to the creation of the MDP Global Association. As of today, the Association is comprised of 32 MDP programs from all around the world.
What do they do?
The association arose from the shared commitment of the individual MDP programs to create a development practice that integrates the social, natural, and health sciences, as well as management. This is done by the sharing of ideas and best practices between universities and a Global Classroom initiative which is a web-based course that fosters cross-disciplinary collaboration between students and teachers around the world on the broad range of core issues facing development in the world today.
There is a process that universities must undertake before joining the association. Such considerations include a two-year curriculum with bios of the faculties which will teach the course, information on field training sites and projects and whether gender and development will be covered, and a few other guidelines. The guidelines establish a standardized quality of the programs which join the association, ensuring that future development practitioners will be adequately prepared for development work if they go to any of the institutions part of the association.
The MDP Global Association Summit
The annual summit provides an opportunity for the global partners to review the past year’s accomplishment, and discuss plans for the future. It allows participants to share best practices between universities, continue discussions on the importance and relevance of the SDGs, and provide feedback on the activities of the past year and on potential projects.
As many of the participants are professors or associate professors, the conversations in the conference give great insight into how other institutions teach development.
The role of the student body, where the MIDPA Student Representative role fits in, also became more clear. My role as Student Representative is to advocate for the interests, rights, and needs of the Monash Students. I coordinate with the MDP Director (Samanthi) regarding school-based issues, and I also make sure our voice is heard by the Regional Director who can then pass on the information gathered to the Global Student Advisory Board.
More information and news can be found at http://mdpglobal.org
The MDP Global Summit Highlights – MIDPA Student Representative Report
It was insightful to hear how different universities create their curriculum, and to see what they are influenced by. The SDGs appear to play an important role for the institutions in North America, with a few of the universities placing great importance on them, which in turn affects the direction of the curriculum. The approach is guided by the belief that this allows for the learning of cross-cutting skills to help achieve the SDGs.
Yet other institutions, such as Monash, acknowledge their existence and discuss them when necessary, but do not place the SDGs as a central focal point in course content. Despite a shared goal for development practice outcomes, there are variances in approach by the MDP programs. The purpose of the Global MDP comes is to assure the quality of each member institution, but that poses problems within itself. Many of these problems were discussed, hopefully with solutions forthcoming.
The innovations from other universities. The presentation that stood out to me was by James Cook University, located in Queensland, Australia. Their fourth semester is dedicated purely to practical learning experience, with students required to spend two months working in a team of four in a field environment. Each team member has a specific role within the project, as well as conducting a research project of their own.
The strength of this project is that they get hands on experience working in the field and in a team, within a university setting, meaning the guidance of a supervisor for this period. This is an invaluable experience for them, and not something that can be easily replicated as a self-sourced project. The program’s success is due to the JCU contacts within Asia, and a strong emphasis on environmental sustainability, with many projects centred on this theme.
With the conclusion of the conference, the third day consisted of a field trip to a sustainable housing estate which featured compost through recycling to grow herbs, and a guided tour of a mangrove forest.
A delicately managed forest over 47,000 square meters, and home to a wide variety of animals, birds and fish. This particular mangrove forest is used to create charcoal exported to the Middle East and Japan. We were also able to visit the charcoal factory which generated interesting insights for a group teaching and learning about development.
For those interested in the process of mangrove cultivation for charcoal the process begins with 2,000 square meters of mangrove harvested annually and fumigated. This process, as pointed out by a professor, is toxic. Coupled with low pay for this work, local workers are hard to attract, thus relying on foreign workers who are more willing for various reasons to undertake this.