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Million dollar research boost for UC academic

Million dollar research boost for UC academic

A University of Canterbury academic’s research on the political aspirations and well-being of future generations has been recognised with an international research grant of more than NZ$1million and an appointment to a London-based think tank.

Senior Lecturer Dr Bronwyn Hayward (Social and Political Sciences) was one of three co-applicants who have won a prestigious Norwegian research grant worth NZ$1.18 million to investigate how youth perceive their future in a changing climate.

The NORKLIMA (Climate Change and Its Impacts in Norway) grant will fund a study of young people’s political agency or sense of responsibility and engagement. Dr Hayward will work on the project with Professor Karen O’Brien and Dr Elin Selboe from the University of Oslo.

Called “Voices of the Future: Values and Visions of Norwegian Youth on Climate Change”, the project will begin in February 2012 and its aim is to understand the beliefs, values and world views of young people growing up in Norway and how these vary across different ethnic/minority, religious, class and gender backgrounds. The overall objective is to help governments understand the fundamental social, cultural and institutional prerequisites that have to be in place to develop effective responses to dangerous environmental change.

Dr Hayward said listening to young people’s hopes, fears and aspirations in Norway will be both poignant and more important given the recent bombing and shooting events in Oslo.

Dr Hayward was also recently appointed one of seven trustees of the London-based think tank, the Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development.

The foundation, a charitable organisation, works with political leaders and partner organisations to identify pathways to democratic innovation in the face of increasing worldwide environmental and social pressures.

The trust board is chaired by John Elkington, a world authority on corporate responsibility and sustainable development who pioneered the concept of triple bottom line accounting, a practice that has transformed the way businesses can account for social, environmental as well as financial outcomes.

Dr Hayward is the first trustee to be appointed from the Asia/Pacific region.

She said the primary focus of the trust will be on stimulating the development of constitutional and legislative initiatives to encourage governments, businesses and communities to seriously consider the needs of future generations when making everyday decisions, including the reform of the British House of Lords.

Dr Hayward said the work of the trust, and its focus on the needs of children and future generations in political decisions, is exciting and timely for the rebuilding of Christchurch.

“It is especially difficult at the moment to get traction on issues that affect the future of young people because baby boomers born in 1940s-1960s are a particularly powerful cohort who dominate politics at the ballot box due to their sheer numbers.

“However the world’s 1.2 billion teenagers are growing up in a very different world from their parents and grandparents. They face three really difficult challenges – dangerous environmental change, growing socio-economic inequality including skyrocketing rates of youth unemployment and weakening democracies.

“The outcomes of the work carried out by the foundation have many implications for New Zealand and the foundation is also keen to learn about New Zealand’s experiences, including our responses to the Christchurch earthquakes and how our Westminster system changed as a result of the Waitangi Tribunal, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and the Children’s Commissioner. We often forget these are precious, home-grown innovations that encourage long-term thinking and greater democratic scrutiny of decision-making.”

Dr Hayward recently returned to UC after a three-year fellowship to the United Kingdom where she worked with the Economic and Social Research Council-funded research group Resolve, which is based at the University of Surrey and led by British Environment Commissioner in economics Tim Jackson, and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change at the University of East Anglia.

“It’s humbling to come home to New Zealand and to Christchurch where so much environmental change is affecting children’s lives. The decisions we make here will impact on the prospects of many generations.

“I never expected to apply the experience I have gained overseas quite so directly but, like many people, I feel it’s an honour and a responsibility to help advocate to ensure the needs of children and future generations are core to our community’s recovery.”


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