We Should Improve Communication and Engagement Skills of Academics

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Most people acknowledge the two obvious strength of universities as a public institution: rigor and independence. More often than not, many agendas, government policies or programs that are motivated by long-run objectives like SDGs are intercepted by short-term political interests. Public supports are essentials to implement such programs especialy in the context of the current Indonesian democratic system. To gain such public supports, the worthiness of such policies need to be assessed by institutions like universities due to their nature of rigor and independence, particularly from political interests.

However, there are one area where academics in universities are commonly not well-trained or not well-equiped with: communication and engagement skills. The language of academia in many cases is difficult to translate into messages understandable easily by the public at large. Communicating research finding, for example that support the acceleration of some aspects in SDGs, sometimes should not only touch people’s rationality but also their emotions. This need special skills. Engagement with development actors, from government officals or policy makers, politicians, to farmers are essentials in ensuring supports of certain SDGs agenda. Yet, academics are often confronted with difficulties in such kind of engagement. Therefore, in this aspects, more capacity building program for academics seems to be urgent.

These two messages were pointed out by Prof. Arief Anshory Yusuf, Senior Researcher and Founding Director of SDGs Center UNPAD, during a meeting between representatives from United Nations Information Center (UNIC) and SDGs Center UNPAD. Dr. Zuzy Anna, Executive and Acting Director of SDGs Center UNPAD discussed various issues on communication strategies in relation to achieving SDGs with Ms. Francyne Harrigan, Director of UNIC. The meeting was held at at the office of SDGs Center UNPAD in Bandung on 8 April 2019.

Ms. Harrigan acknowledged the needs of academics to improve their communication and engagement skills because such skills are needed if research done by universities to make impacts. UNIC is in good position to collaborate with SDGs center UNPAD, in particular, or SDGs center from other universities to facilitate such iniatives.

On other issue, Ms. Harrigan also see the potentials of universities including their students to make impact on various aspects of SDGs. She appreciated the existing universties’ program that send students to rural areas and engage with villagers in remote areas to solve various development problems. There are opportunies where UNIC can also collaborate to improve these programs, she added.