Evidence that the world is watching: since arriving in Canberra, I've heard about at least 6 other students and researchers from around the world looking into community engagement in the Murray-Darling Basin. I keep hearing about them because my interviewees mention that they were interviewed the week before by someone else. The main difference, though-- and this speaks directly to the Clinton School's philosophy-- is that these PhD students and professors that I'm hot on the heels of will likely have outputs that will never make it back to the government agencies or the community. The strict requirements of ethics committees ensure that some important information cannot be released, academics may not think to provide a copy of their work to those it affects, the reports and papers may not be in language that is accessible, the information may come too late to be of use, or relationships may not have been developed to the point where the information can be accepted by the agency or community.
On the contrary, my research is in partnership with the agencies themselves. I am constantly in conversations with the people I work with-- reporting on things I've learned, helping them think through strategies and ideas, giving feedback and suggestions. People are starting to know and trust me. They respect my opinions and observations. I have given a couple of presentations in the past few weeks about my learnings so far and each time it has turned into a really interesting conversation about how to practically incorporate the things they heard from me and things they've heard from feedback in the past. It's giving them a chance to synthesize things, think collectively and creatively-- I LOVE IT!!! It half makes me want to stay, it's so exciting. I think I'd make a great Grundsatzfragen (Director of Fundamental Questions).
The only problem with all of this is that I probably won't be getting much sleep in the 3 days I have left in the Bush Capital. They are going to be PACKED with presentations, interviews, conversations, planning.... but I love it I love it I love it!