Gender+ SMART Award handed over to the WCSG initiative to foster a safe and respectful WUR culture

Published on
April 14, 2022

The diversity group of the Wageningen Centre for Sustainable Governance (WCSG) can now publicly share the Gender+ SMART plaquette and their final report as their contribution towards a safe and respectful WUR culture. The Award was handed over to group members Marieke Meesters, Sascha Pimentel, Eira Carballo Cárdenas and Tabitha Muriuki by WUR Gender-SMART project leader Margreet van der Burg. The ceremony was combined with the presentation of the main messages of the report.

The full group of eleven researchers from the Law (LAW), Public Administration and Policy (PAP), Forest and Nature Conversation Policy (FNP) and Environmental Policy (ENP) chair groups started their initiative as a bottom-up incubator project. They aimed to explore the challenges and opportunities towards genuinely inclusive research and teaching in sustainability governance and connect their findings to cluster-wide actions. They questioned and examined what it means to be an inclusive, diverse, decolonized and intersectional university research centre, what biases exist in research and teaching and what opportunities exist to address this.

This initiative is awarded with the new Gender+ SMART Award that is established to award and give attention to good practices of creating a more safe and respectful culture of collaboration and fostering a gender+ diverse and inclusive working and/or learning place at WUR. The awards show appreciation to teams that jointly work in this direction and highlight their initiatives to stimulate discussion and mutual learning among teams and groups to strengthen their efforts to contribute.

The final report of the group shows an inspirational example of how explorative and action-oriented research can help to study challenges, good practices and future opportunities to enhance diversity and counter structural exclusions within a specific field of research and education. They mapped samples of their chair groups’ curricula, conducted a survey among staff, PhD candidates and students, and held a series of guided group discussions with the cluster’s teachers. Important to tell is that they acknowledged that cluster members would have different experiences and perspectives. The final report provides the results, group-specific recommendations and includes a section with lessons learned from their engagement with ‘diversity work’.

The researchers concluded that WCGS students are mainly acquainted with knowledge based on western scientific practices and values and were mainly exposed to white and European role models. They also found that scholars from the Global South were underrepresented in WCGS research citations and that there was a risk of conducting research that is extractive, meaning that scientists take field data without acknowledging or connecting these to the people’s interests. How to advance reflexivity regarding positionality, bias, and privilege in research and education, as well as research activities in co-productive and cross-boundary collaboration is addressed. Specific recommendations for WCSG are listed for the graduate school, the WCSG management team, WCSG chairholders, course coordinators, researchers, supervisors, and lecturers.

In the reflections on their ‘diversity work’ to promote equal opportunities and challenge practices of inequality and discrimination towards a more inclusive university, they stressed the importance of careful and thoughtful deliberation in an environment that facilitates constructive and respectful debate and recognize discomfort. They indicate that structural biases need to be tackled at different institutional levels and that it will take time, resources, and an engaged and active approach to foster an inclusive university where everybody feels they belong.

You can read more in the final report which is now available here. You can also contact Eira Carballo Cárdenas, Marieke Meesters or Sascha Pimentel.

This initiative is considered an important contribution towards a safe and respectful culture at WUR, especially in its cluster-wide actions other groups can copy or learn from, as the issues addressed in the report are likely to be of importance for other chairgroups and clusters as well. This report provides a starting point for critical reflection on both the content and procedures of knowledge production and sharing in research and education.

Please tell us when you know of other initiatives that deserve a Gender+-SMART Award!

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