Australian signatory, and current PRME Champion Deakin Business School (DBS) was one of the recent recipients of the Recognition for Excellence in Reporting at PRME’s Virtual Global Forum for their 2017-2018 Sharing Information on Progress (SIP) report. The report provided a strong overview of not just how DBS has approached the 6 Principles, but also the impact, both direct and indirect, that the school has had on each of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). I spoke with Fara Azmat and Harsh Suri about their report, why the SIP is important at Deakin and what’s next for reporting more generally.
Briefly, how do you put your report together?
As one of the key values of DBS, sustainability is embedded in our main activities including teaching and learning, research and operations. In one sense it was therefore a challenge to report on all our sustainability focussed activities given the multifaceted wide range of activities being undertaken. One way of dealing with this was to involve key staff involved in major portfolios and focus on the major activities. We collected information from multiple sources: a) Executive Dean’s newsletter; b) our directors of teaching and research across the faculty; c) research centre directors. d) Departmental Heads and other colleagues actively contributing to the portfolio of sustainability to get a holistic insight.
Do you find the SIP to be a useful exercise? Why or why not?
While I understand that there are debates about the usefulness of SIP and there is potential for improvement; personally, for me, I find this to be a useful exercise as it consolidates our activities focused on sustainability across the six principles of PRME. Importantly I find it to be a useful tool to create awareness and communicate to our staff and also external stakeholders about our ongoing initiatives and how they can be involved in those activities. SIP increases our visibility in the ERS space and creates potential for collaboration amongst business schools.
How is your report used internally? Externally? How would you like it to be used or think it should be used?
Currently the SIP is presented in Departmental meetings and PRME website of our business school, which is accessible to both internal and external stakeholders. It is mainly used to create awareness amongst staff, communicate to them the different activities that are being undertaken and also to seek their involvement in SDG/sustainability activities. Internally, I would like the report to be used alongside other key strategic documents to not only reinforce our commitments to PRME/SDG but also to reflect upon potential ways to build on our existing commitments/activities and come up with new and innovative ideas to contribute to the SDG agenda involving staff, students and other stakeholders such as businesses. Externally, I would like the report to be used as a tool for: a) ongoing dialogue and sharing of best practices amongst business Schools and b) potential collaboration and partnerships amongst business Schools and businesses across a range of activities.
What do you find most challenging about the SIP and how do you tackle that at Deakin?
I find the most challenging aspect is to consolidate all the activities being undertaken in the Faculty in the report. We do so by contacting the key staff involved such as directors of teaching, research, research centre directors, departmental heads and so on. To efficiently address this problem in future we will be establishing a community of practice on PRME involving focal point of contacts from each department to acknowledge their contribution and get them actively involved.
What would you like to see change in terms of business schools reporting on sustainability?
While SIP in its current form is useful from a number of perspectives as mentioned earlier, it however provides an account of the positive activities only. However for the SIP to be really useful, I think the following sections need to be added for reporting. These include: a) section that summarises the progress schools have made since the last report; b) the challenges faced by Schools and how did they overcome the challenge, the strategies they used etc.; c) section on ‘wicked problems’ that the schools are still struggling with (this will become more relevant in the COVID context); and d) including the voices of students and other stakeholders involved in terms of how they are making a difference. Adding these sections will be really useful for business schools to learn from each other and also to collaborate on solving ‘wicked problems’.
Is there something you would like to see PRME schools report more on?
PRME schools typically report on their success stories. I would like to see more reporting on the challenges experienced in implementing various initiatives that brought them to fruition or led to their abandonment. I would also like to see more of the practical strategies used by PRME schools for overcoming some of those challenges. Following on a couple of discussions from Champions for PRME forums, we need to start thinking about how we report on our progress in a way that provides useful insights for the other schools who are at various points of their PRME journeys. We need to explore more efficient ways of reporting that foster collaboration rather than competition.
What about in terms of reporting on the SDGs more specifically?
Reporting on the SDGs more specifically has certainly contributed to PRME schools paying more attention to SDGs. Nonetheless, an exclusive focus on SDGs could undermine the scaffolded learning that is essential for enabling a transformative change.
Any advice for other schools working on their SIP?
In our school Fara led the process of SIP reporting. I particularly liked her collaborative approach where she was happy for me to take a lead on how we structure our story about integrating SDGs into curriculum. Rather than leaving SIP reporting to the last minute, we both collect our school’s stories about various PRME initiatives as we go along. Rather than thinking of SIP as a biennial event, it is important to adopt a portfolio thinking for curating ‘Aha’ moments and ‘not so Aha’ moments of our PRME journeys.
COVID has been a double-edged sword. Inarguably, business schools are experiencing unprecedented challenges due to COVID restrictions and their flow on effects. Nonetheless, COVID19 has also brought the global community closer. For instance, in the ANZ PRME chapter, we had a terrific discussion about inviting other PRME coordinators into our virtual classrooms. Many of us who would not have been able to join the PRME Global Forum in its face to face format were able to actively engage with the discussions this year. In a similar vein, lack of resources is a challenge but it is also an opportunity to push us to think of more efficient ways of achieving our PRME goals. High on my wish list is how to foster partnerships for deeper engagement with the PRME agenda in a way that respectfully acknowledges contributions of individual contributors. Another area that I am passionate about is student-led partnerships for advancing SDGs.
What parts of the report would you like readers to take particular notice of?
To be honest, I am proud of the whole report as it provides a snapshot of the wide-ranging activities being undertaken in DBS. However, if I have to specify, there are a number of sections in the report that I am really proud of. These include
- Our ERS vision and strategy that provides a multi-pronged approach to embed ERS across our teaching, research, partnerships and student and staff engagement activities as shown in Figure 1 (p. 8)
- Our framework for integrating global perspectives, intercultural skills and ERS across individual units in Table 2 (p. 15). I have presented this framework at multiple forums and a few colleagues from other schools have also drawn upon it to strengthen scaffolded development of these learning outcomes. This framework is first in the way it draws on the UN’s pillars of learning as well as the SOLO taxonomy (Biggs & Tang, 2007) that is built on the solid foundation of a large number of phenomenographic studies in higher education.
- Student voices section that focuses on various achievements of DBS students globally across a range of issues that provides evidence of how we develop the capabilities of students as responsible future leaders (p. 25)
- The section on how our research is making a real impact (p. 30-31)
- Our PRME dashboard and SDG progress table (p. 43-45)