RDI Network Committee welcomes new academic representatives

Topics Networking

The RDI Network is pleased to welcome three new members to the RDI Committee. Following an open round of nominations to fill six academic representative positions, the successful candidates are Dr Rochelle Spencer (Murdoch University), Thomas Soem (University of Sydney) and Dr Peter Westoby (University of Queensland).

The RDI Committee is the key strategic oversight body for the Network, providing leadership and direction on activities undertaken through the RDI Network towards meeting its core objectives.

We look forward to the new ideas, connections and energy which Rochelle, Thomas and Peter will bring to the committee. Below you can read a brief introduction of our new members:

Dr Rochelle Spencer

“I am the founding co-Director of the Centre for Responsible Citizenship and Sustainability – a multidisciplinary hub for teaching and research at Murdoch University, endeavouring to shape new thinking and practice on key aspects of responsible citizenship. I am also and Senior Lecturer of Development Studies at the University.

My interests lie in the anthropological study of development, that is, development encounters between the Global South and Global North. My research concerns the role of agency in development and the structural inequalities that lead to uneven and unequal development. Over the past two decades I have worked or researched with a number of NGOs including British Red Cross, Australian Red Cross, Oxfam Australia, Global Exchange, Catholic Relief Services Southern Africa and Nuwul Environmental Services an Indigenous social enterprise in northeast Arnhem Land, Australia.

I have engaged with the RDI Network in a number of ways in the past, and have experienced the value of the cross-sector connections which it facilitates. I look forward to contributing to the strategic leadership of the Network as a member of the Committee.”

Thomas Soem

We view our work with the RDI Network as an important part of what we do as an institution and how we translate research into policy and practice.
Thomas Soem, University of Sydney

“I am the Head, International Research and Development in the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Sydney. I represent a focal point at the University for engagement with the international research and development sectors. I am responsible for developing funding and partnership strategies to increase our level of international collaborations in research and development, and facilitate and support relations within and between the University and external organisations in this area.

I have been involved in ACFID and RDI Network activities since 2012. I currently administer the University’s membership with ACFID and am a central point of contact between the University and ACFID and the RDI Network. I was an integral part of the highly successful RDI Conference at the University of Sydney in June 2017.

The objectives of the RDI Network align well with the strategic aspirations of the University. We are currently pursuing strategies to encourage interdisciplinary approaches and cross-sector collaborations with industry, NGOs and community partners, and I am a firm believer of the importance of building strong partnerships with external organisations to leverage complementary expertise and access. We view our work with the RDI Network as an important part of what we do as an institution and how we translate research into policy and practice.”

Dr Peter Westoby

“I am currently a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Queensland. I will be transferring to a role at the Queensland University of Technology in 2018 where I look forward to continuing connections with ACFID and the RDI Network.

I am relatively new to the Network but already I value that sense of being part of a community of scholars and practitioners beyond my university. I believe that our impact potential is significant if we are strategic. The reality is that most social science/development related research goes no-where, and is read by very few people (usually only a few other scholars). I think RDI can bridge practice, policy and research, such that there is a more effective link, with good quality communication and dialogue.

As an academic, I’ve found that it’s easy to get isolated and I want to connect with a ‘community of scholars and practice’. I am also aware of how easy it is to be captured by the university pressures to simply publish. In contrast I want my writing-publishing to have meaning in terms of development effectiveness – linking practice, research and policy.”

We also extend congratulations to Prof. Juliet Willetts (UTS), Ass. Prof. Kurt Seamann (Swinburne University) and Dr Elise Klein (University of Melbourne), who were re-elected to continue in their positions as academics representatives of the committee.  Each of the elected committee members will undertake a three-year term.

Both new and continuing members of the committee bring extensive academic and practical experience in the development sector, andwe  look forward to advancing the Network’s goals through the engagement of these individuals and their supporting institutions.

We offer our great appreciation to the three ougoing members of the committee, who have each significantly contributed to the growth and consolidation of the RDI Network in recent years: Prof Joel Negin (University of Sydney), Dr Jane Hutchison (Murdoch University) and Dr Patrick Kilby (ANU).

A call to fill one casual vacancy on the committee for an NGO representative is now open for nomination until 11 September. The next quarterly RDI Committee meeting will take place on 5 September.