Dr Penny Wurm from Charles Darwin University joined forces with the ABARES Social Sciences team to review the current the ‘ENV521 – Community Engagement for Biosecurity and Natural Resource Management’ master’s unit in order to update it with the latest academic literature about behaviour change and on approaches for involving communities in biosecurity and natural resource management. There have been many new insights into the application of behaviour change models and methods for gaining community support that have come to the fore in recent years, and these approaches can be used to strengthen the education of new biosecurity and natural resource management (NRM) professionals.

ABARES Social Scientists worked collaboratively with Dr Wurm, the CDU master’s course co-ordinator, to identify the priority areas for reviewing the unit. The three areas of focus were: course topics, engagement tools and case studies. The output of the review is a series of recommendations for strengthening these areas in the Unit for CDU students starting in Semester 2 2019.

A number of the recommendations have been incorporated into the unit to date:

  • a module of materials has been incorporated on monitoring and evaluation approaches that can be applied to community engagement activities
  • the case study collection available for students to access at any time was expanded, with supporting learning materials integrated into the case studies
  • the section of the unit on ‘Engagement’ has been strengthened by making available additional engagement tools and approaches.

The unit co-ordinator provided feedback that material from the new case studies, and suggested unit topics and tools will continue to be incorporated into weekly learning activities. These changes and some of those planned in the future are noted in the relevant sections of this review report.

The benefits of the collaboration between CDU and ABARES in reviewing the unit material were:

  • The material provided valuable intellectual and practical input to the unit by not only recommending new references, but embedding those references in the context of specific case studies. These case studies were based on ABARES’ in-house documents that would not otherwise have been available.
  • The collaboration highlighted the value of curriculum materials as a mechanism for fostering research uptake by targeted research users.
  • Feedback from the unit co-ordinator was that participating in the collaboration project was a stimulating process, which will inevitably impact on the approach to thinking about and teaching the unit.
  • Unit development is an iterative process, so the review report provides rich new resources for an ongoing process of continuous unit renewal.

More information can be found on the Project pages and the report can be downloaded here ….