Collaboration – is it something to get excited about? Dr Robert Mangoyana from USQ Fraser Coast says “Yes”.
The Zimbabwe-born researcher believes the secret to the Fraser Coast’s fiscal success is the collaboration of its myriad economic development groups and bringing together of resources. The challenge is inspiring people to collaborate outside their traditional silos.
Dr Mangoyana is mid-way through a 12-month project funded under the Australian Government’s Regional and Rural Research and Development Grants Program to bring together such groups to work collaboratively for the good of the region.
“We strongly believe collaboration will help drive growth in this region through more innovative, networked, linked and leveraged regional development rather than everyone doing their own thing without finding the connections that facilitate improvement.”
Dr Mangoyana said the project’s main goals were to improve the understanding of best practice approaches regarding networked and integrated regional development at a regional level, introduce strategic doing, encourage people to talk about what they’re doing and ask questions about what they could, should and will do together.
USQ identified there were a lot of regional development groups within the government, non-governmental and private sectors engaged in various planning processes and activities.
“There could be synergies among the existing activities and in addition, opportunities to find new development projects that coordinate sectoral efforts,” Dr Mangoyana said.
“The more we come together, the stronger we are as a region. If we put forward project proposals collaboratively, they’re more likely to be funded and the more likely we are to extend our resources. In addition to our recourses, we have a whole lot of assets we can mobilise locally and bring together for regional development.”
Dr Mangoyana said urging economic development groups to work together wasn’t new.
“What’s different now is the emphasis on doing rather than coming together to end up with plans without implementation. The need to jointly find relationships and connections among existing activities to better coordinate, link and leverage regional assets for transformational change is the main focus of our project.
“The project’s initial stage identified individuals and groups who were working on regional development within the Wide Bay Burnett region.
“We’ve now established a group that is keen to work together. The next stage is to conduct workshops to identify our strengths and areas we can jointly work on. In the future, we will identify two or three regional programs to solve in a co-ordinated way.
“In the US, there are many successful projects that have involved the collaboration of people who don’t traditionally work together. Purdue University, who will be jointly facilitating workshops with us in May and June this year, successfully rolled out strategic doing in the US with amazing transformational outcomes.”
Dr Mangoyana said reaping the benefits of regional collaboration would take some years.
“People want things that happen quickly but this is not a quick fix. Quick fixes are not always forthcoming in collaboration. With time, years, you find these networks yielding results.
“What we need now is to get the conversations going across groupings and out of those conversations we get something we can build on. We may have to start with small steps and grow over time.
“We then need an action plan to move beyond strategic planning to doing, reviewing and doing jointly.”
Dr Mangoyana has over 11 years’ experience in research and development work.
Before joining the University of Southern Queensland in 2012, Dr Mangoyana was employed as a research fellow by the University of the Sunshine Coast.
While he was completing his PhD at USC, he was employed on a part-time basis over three years by the USC’s Sustainability Research Centre mainly working within the Sunshine Coast Regional Sustainability Indicators project, South East Queensland Climate Adaptation Research Initiative and iClimate project.
During this time Dr Mangoyana represented the Sustainability Research Centre in the Sunshine Coast Energy Transition Project Reference Group. Within the group he contributed to the production of the Sunshine Coast Energy Transition Plan 2010 -2020.
Before moving to Australia in 2008 for PhD studies, Dr Mangoyana was employed by Mid Sweden University in Sweden as a lecturer where he co-ordinated and taught postgraduate courses. Dr Mangoyana has also worked in rural development work for over five years in Zimbabwe specialising on conservation and sustainable utilisation of forest resources.