The decision to become a supporting partner to the Accord is part of the network’s ongoing work on the SDGs which began in 2018.
Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Coventry University, Joanne Dobson, who chairs the WTUN Working Group on the SDGs, explains: “Our idea was that the Sustainable Development Goals could provide the network with a clear focus and direction for its activities, within the wider theme of technology. SDG4, which is ‘quality education’, was obviously important to all our members. But we wanted to find out which of the other goals would most resonate within the network.”
The Working Group surveyed WTUN members during 2018 and identified three more Sustainable Development Goals that were considered the most relevant to activities within the network: SDG3 – good health and wellbeing; SDG6 – clean water and sanitation; and SDG11 – sustainable cities and communities.
“We took these to the WTUN Congress in Chennai in November 2018 and ran a session during which members presented on the work they were already doing to further these goals,” says Joanne Dobson. “The idea of adopting the goals as our focus was widely endorsed by members and ratified by the Board at the Congress. The only change was that members asked that a fourth Sustainable Development Goal – number 5, gender equality – was also added to the list.”
Work is now beginning to embed these goals into the WTUN’s activities. The network’s exchange programme, which funds visits between member institutions to build research partnerships or share best practice, now stipulates that half of all exchanges must directly address one or more of the four SDGs. Participants from these exchanges will be reporting back to the network during the 2019 Congress hosted by the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology in November.
A Gender Equality Working Group has also been established, to identify what the WTUN can do to support its members on this goal. And of course, members will be encouraged to sign up to the SDG Accord themselves as institutions.
Only institutional signatories to the SDG Accord have to submit a formal report on their activities, which is then compiled into a report to the UN. As an endorsing partner network, the WTUN is not expected to report, but Joanne Dobson is keen that the network does so.
“We’re just starting out with this initiative, but we have a strong base to build on and more ideas to put into practice,” she says. “Compiling an annual report on what we, as a partner network, have supported and enabled our members to achieve would be a valuable exercise and help to show progress. And as more members join the network, we’ll continue to review the SDGs we have chosen to make sure we’re focusing on those that are most relevant to our mission in both research and education.”