Two days at Albany…

November 21, 2013

Glenn Banks

The whole Marsden team had a great couple of days up at Albany (Auckland) last week. On Wednesday afternoon we held our first meeting with the team’s Advisory Group. Installed in the Boardroom at the Massey University campus, we presented progress on the project to the Advisory Group and sought their insights and suggestions for the future direction and conduct of the research.

The Advisory Group brings a lot of collective mana and knowledge to the project. From left to right in the photo below, the members are:

Advisory group_small

Gavin Murray is Head of the Pacific desk of the International Finance Corporation in Sydney. The IFC is the private sector focussed arm of the World Bank, and Gavin’s work is largely around exploring ways in which the IFC can support the private sector to better contribute to development, in economic and non-economic terms.

Annemarie Gillies is Director, Te Au Rangahau (Māori Business Research Centre) at Massey. Her work means she is particularly attuned to the ways in which indigenous communities adapt and connect with commercial business operating in their own territories.

Yvonne Underhill-Sem is head of the Development Studies programme at Auckland University and has worked extensively throughout the Pacific on local-level development issues as well as policy-level work.

Deanna Kemp is Deputy Director of the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining (CSRM) at the University of Queensland, and works specifically on questions of corporate community affairs in the mining sector, in Australia, the Pacific and elsewhere.

Gabriel Eweje, senior lecturer in the School of Business on the Massey Albany Campus. Gabriel has worked on mining companies and CSR initiatives in a number of African countries, including a recent 3 month spell of fieldwork in South Africa.

After presenting a brief update on what we had done in the first seven months of the project, we had a very productive discussion with the group that spanned the selection of our case studies for the research, the connections between the two industries and some of the methodological decisions we are going to have to make as the project proceeds. A big vote of thanks to the group for this.

The afternoon’s conversations rolled smoothly into a dinner with the group (with the addition of Andrew Bradley from ANU who works on tourism and community development in Fiji), and we all came away feeling the project was heading in the right direction.

The following day was the first day of the Sustainability Conference at the Massey Albany Campus organised by Gabriel from our Advisory Group. We wandered over in the sunshine from our nearby hotel as a team and enjoyed a number of stimulating sessions and keynote papers (Peter Dauvergne, with his talk on “Big-brand sustainability: the rhetoric and the reality, was particularly good and pertinent for our project).

About 25 people showed up for our first joint panel presentation of our project, during which we got to each present a segment of the overall project, supplemented by a couple of excellent short presentations relating to case studies of CCD and mining (from Deanna Kemp, CSRM, University of Queensland), and CCD and tourism in Fiji (Andrew Bradley, ANU, Canberra). Question time (somewhat compressed due to our chronic inability to stick to time… and by ‘our’ I mostly mean me!) produced some really good questions that explored the potential scope and some of the limits of the project, as well as issues around the need to unpack the corporate appropriation of terms such as ‘partnership’ and ‘empowerment’. It was a really good experience for the team, as we heard different perspectives on the project and could reflect on it with new insights: certainly for me it raised some interesting possible pathways to explore in terms of linking the detail of corporate practices and community responses with broader questions of the private sector’s ability to actually do ‘development’ – do they have the necessary skills to actually facilitate community development rather than simply foster dependency?

The rest of the day was also useful and certainly reinforced the view that our work was both original and could make a contribution to other on-going debates around CSR in the world of business studies (and beyond!). Afterwards we all headed off to the Conference dinner in Takapuna, with me as driver: I navigated towards the designated hotel the old fashioned way – aiming at a tall building and gradually narrowing in on it until we turned one last corner and were there! Good food and sustainable wines for dinner, along with a variety of interesting conversations with others in the field, made for an excellent night.

I had to skip the second day of the conference due to other work at Auckland University, but I met up with Sharon and Emma Richardson again at the hotel that night and reflected on the papers they had heard that day while eating our last feed of Kiwi fish and chips before we flew out to Papua New Guinea – for more on that see Emma Richardson’s update!

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