University partnerships make important contributions to advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This was the main message of a global webinar hosted by the University of Waterloo on March 2, 2021.
Invited by the UK's University of Strathclyde to contribute to the ‘Accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals in the post-COVID era: the contribution of Universities’ webinar series, Waterloo’s session was entitled ‘University partnerships to advance the SDGs: local, national, and international examples.’ Other webinars in the series were led by KTH Royal Institute of Technology (Sweden), the University of Stellenbosch (South Africa), and Peking University (China).
“The webinar series has been designed to showcase the valuable and integral role that universities play in attaining the SDGs across the globe in both the higher and lower-income countries, and we are delighted to be working with outstanding partners such as the University of Waterloo to learn from their world-leading programmes and their excellent national and global partnerships in this area,” said Dr. Tracy Morse, head of the Centre for Sustainable Development, University of Strathclyde.
Different types of partnerships, to include entrepreneurial, community, youth, and educational, were examined across various scales, by four speakers, who also described and reflected on various partnership activities and addressed questions from the global audience.
Tania Del Matto, director of GreenHouse at St. Paul’s University College, discussed initiatives where the organization empowered, supported, and scaled partnerships to encourage youth-led innovations.
“We continue to build partnerships that provide students with the opportunity to engage in interdisciplinary collaboration nationally and globally,” Del Matto said, while speaking about initiatives created by GreenHouse.
Dr. Paul Parker, professor, Faculty of Environment, and co-founder/director, Reep Green Solutions, reviewed the impact that an environmental charity, incubated at UWaterloo, has had in the community for more than 20 years. Dr. Parker also emphasized how partnership diversity helps to build strength and resilience.
“Our partnerships gave us the strength to overcome funding and program shocks and enabled us to deliver results,” he said. “Even when others were being closed down, we continued to move towards achieving the SDGs.”
Nidhu Jagoda, national youth coordinator, Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Canada; and Master of Climate Change student, introduced SDSN Canada and SDSN Youth, which, she said, empowers youth globally to create sustainable development solutions.
“At a national level, we want to make sure that youth in our network have the opportunity to collaborate with external organizations working in the same space, and that is really what is at the core of our national initiatives,” Nidhu said while underscoring the importance of partnerships for youth engagement.
Dr. Ian Rowlands, associate vice-president, international, and professor in the Faculty of Environment, who chaired the webinar, outlined ways in which universities partner with others to advance the SDGs. He emphasised different levels of partnerships, including through individual members’ connections (students, staff, and faculty), various university units, and institutional-level engagements.
“Ensuring equitable partnerships, measuring the impact of partnerships, and executing post-pandemic hybrid approaches, including virtual internationalization and the localization of international education, are some prominent themes for future consideration,” he said.
As UWaterloo continues to advance the SDGs, engagement with valued partners like the University of Strathclyde, and with individuals and groups around the world will remain a priority. Through ‘partnerships for the goals’, action for people, planet, and prosperity can continue.