Objectives and impact

Objectives

WEGO’s first aim is to establish a vibrant European network of excellence on FPE that will link researchers, communities and policy makers for maximum impact in the environment and development policy arena, and positive change for the communities involved in the research. WEGO will achieve this first aim through the following objectives:
a) consolidate an exciting and multifaceted FPE framework through new collaborations;
b) undertake in-depth analytical and cutting edge societally relevant research projects looking at gender, ecology and community well-being;
c) put in place processes of mutual learning among researchers and communities;
d) map out strategies of resilience and sustainability in communities;
e) document how gendered power relations shape resource access and control in specific contexts with a focus on climate change, economic development and extractivism; commoning, community economies and the politics of care; and technologies; and
f) analyse the different community’s everyday lives and emotional relations to natural and cultural (natureculture) resources.

WEGO’s second aim is to create a new generation of early stage researchers (ESRs) in a societally relevant research platform. WEGO will achieve this second aim through the following set of objectives:
a) train ESRs in network-wide training courses with labs on critical participatory research and policy application and writing of policy briefs;
b) train ESRs to partner with communities in local activities that support inclusive governance processes for sustainability;
c) train ESRs on how to convert the acquired knowledge into inclusive and sustainable policy that takes into account the knowledge and experience of communities; and
d) train ESRs in networking, management and communication skills in order to disseminate their research in social media and policy arenas.

WEGO’s third aim is to consolidate FPE as a key conceptual approach to resilience and sustainability by bringing fresh perspectives on gender to the policy space on environment and development being opened up by the SDGs. WEGO will achieve this third aim through the following set of objectives:
a) hold roundtables that engage policy makers and synthesise the findings based on local community knowledge in order to contribute to debates on resilience and sustainability;
b) publish policy briefs, academic papers and contribute to social media platforms on gender, community well-being in relation to strategies for resilience and sustainability;
c) contribute to policy and social movement events on the SDGs on climate change resilience, community economies and population and development; and
d) organise a major academic conference on FPE to disseminate findings.

Impact

1. Enhancing the career perspectives and employability of researchers and contribution to their skills development

On completion of the training programme, ESRs will be in an excellent position to be at the forefront of the field of gender studies, sustainable development and political ecology able to continue their careers as researchers or to apply what they have learnt through WEGO training to work in International Organisations including the European Union agencies and UN entities, policy institutes, local government, NGOs, applied research and community based organisations.

Initial discussions between WEGO beneficiaries and partners have defined the following skills that the ESRs will gain: a) interdisciplinarity; b) gender aware critical thinking; c) creativity; d) capacity to work with communities in non extractive research; e) ability to understand environmental problems holistically within their broader socio-political context; f) knowledge of existing experiences of development inspired by gender equality and environmentally sound principles and practices; g) in-depth understanding of global dynamics and cultural differences in development processes; h) adaptability and capacity to work in different work environments; and i) ability to link research to policy and civic advocacy.

With such a strong skill set it is anticipated that the ESRs will find employment as university researchers, university professors, investigative journalists, free-lance writers, researchers in NGOs and social movements, analysts in consultancies or freelance consultants, civil servants, political appointees, development planners in the private or public sector. WEGO’s goal is to ensure that all ESRs are recruited in a job of their choice within 12 months of completion of the WEGO contract. Given this goal, throughout the project WEGO will work to establish longer term collaborations and/or lasting structured training programme that will continue after WEGO through the direct collaboration between the institutions.

The ESRs on completing the WEGO programme will have acquired a unique set of skills, knowledge and networks not typically offered by PhD programmes in Europe through exposure to a series of dynamic and exciting training opportunities. They will receive:

a) interdisciplinary training from a range of scholars based in the Global North and Global South, ranging from social geography to anthropology to gender studies to political ecology from rural and urban studies to development studies and social work;
b) targeted training in grounded research methodology and design;
c) participatory action training on a range of necessary skills, from writing and communicating effectively, to managing projects, to organising workshops, writing policy proposals, writing for the social media, and organising outreach and mobilisation campaigns;
d) international mobility in research, travelling to both Global North and Global South countries in the training labs and through their secondments, learning to know and understand different cultural and national perspectives;
e) engagement with non-academic sectors such as NGOs, local government authorities, community based organisations and social movement networks;
f) work experience in project management and networking, organising public and training events, managing a conference, as well as producing research outputs directly relevant for the communities with whom they are working; and
g) interactions with communities learning how to build into the research design a process of respectful co-production of knowledge.

In sum, this new generation of researchers will be uniquely placed to understand local environmental issues from community and gender perspectives and to address the gap between the big picture policy approach to sustainable development and the reality of life on the ground. Such in-depth global knowledge will make an important contribution to universities and research organisations, environmental and public policy consultancies, think-tanks and NGOs at European level and also strengthen the research of partners in the Global South.

2. Contribution to structuring doctoral/early-stage research training at the European level and to strengthening European innovation capacity

Key to the WEGO contribution to European excellence is training the ESRs in how to translate their research into relevant policy arenas. One major result of the programme will be to ensure researchers are capable to take up policy analysis, design and implementation. The secondments at non-academic beneficiary and partner institutions will include placements at: local government organisations; applied research organisations; NGOs; and advocacy groups. The non-academic secondments will enable the ESRs to gain first hand knowledge in how to apply critical FPE insights. They will learn from a large network of specialists working in FPE both in the Global South and North. The exchange of knowledge and insights within WEGO as ESRs learn together in the network wide trainings will build an important repository of knowledge on gender and political ecology. The interdisciplinary training programme and the exposure of the researchers to different non-academic environments and community contexts, through field-work and secondments is designed to provide direct input to on-going work of the European Commission (EC), European NGOs and local government in fields such as gender equality, environment, climate, human resource development, rural and urban planning. In addition, developing a strong cohort of future FPE experts ready to advise in these fields will contribute not only to important policy debates in Europe but also provides an example of innovative societally relevant European doctoral training. In sum, the non-academic sector partners are key to WEGO’s doctoral training programme, because they enable ESRs to have hands on experience in relation to implementation as well as working directly with communities to shape the research and its application at the policy level.

An important contribution to European excellence in research will be to establish long-term collaborations and intervarsity training programmes among the European universities of the WEGO network. Given the already established connections among the institutions, WEGO will provide the possibility for the universities to do more joint teaching programmes working towards accreditation for collaborative degrees, specialised courses on gender, ecology and community well-being, and summer schools and organised secondment periods at the WEGO partners.

Following the grant, WEGO plans to continue to foster European-wide collaboration with direct collaboration between the institutions, the building of joint curricula of local postgraduate courses, use of on-line material in teaching, and continued shared research and publications. After the completion of the project further funds will be raised for collaboration such as the recruitment of new PhDs and post- doc researchers and any jointly held trainings.

In terms of innovation, the research undertaken by WEGO is directly relevant to many of the thematic policy priorities of the EC’s DG Environment and will provide compelling stories for policy makers that enable greater understanding of the interaction between sustainable development policy goals and objectives on the one hand, and community engagement on the ground on the other. The research will also feed into the debates on the SDGs bringing the research on well-being, ecology, gender and community from outside of Europe to the European policy table making a case for tighter links between EU’s trade, development, environmental and external policies.

3. Quality of the proposed measures to exploit and disseminate the results

WEGO will use a multi-targeted dissemination strategy that capitalises upon new social media, web connectivity, policy labs and roundtables as well as conventional academic outputs such as journal articles, conference presentations and books. WEGO places importance on training ESRs to disseminate their results not only to the academic community but also trains them to link with policy decision-makers and also to feedback their results to the community with whom they have been working. The emphasis is on societally relevant research embedding the research in social processes and learning through the dissemination strategy to ensure effective mutual learning and communication. The ESRs will be enhancing their own dissemination and communication skills by engaging social media, writing policy briefs, blogs, fieldwork and methodological notes, press releases, organising roundtables, and participating in the organising of the final international conference.

The WEGO website will offer free-access to all publicly available material produced by the network (briefs, papers, presentations), training material and syllabuses (with self-teaching instructions), videos presenting the project and press releases and other material for the media. The website will be interactive with rolling blogs where researchers can report on their experience as they work with communities, and engage in conversation with interested visitors to the site, with space for the public to comment on WEGO research and training outputs.