New funding creates life-changing learning for students

26 November 2019

Thirteen University of Queensland students have headed overseas for two weeks to partake in a transdisciplinary project with rural communities and local institutions in Indonesia.

Funded by the New Colombo Plan, this is the second cohort in 2019 for this short mobility project (PEATLI), which sees undergraduates from UQ’s Communication, Journalism, Social Science, Law and Environmental Management programs collaborate with the Indonesian Peatland Agency (BRG) and Universitas Indonesia on real-life issues in Indonesia.

Working with the Indonesian Peatland Restoration Agency and institutions and communities in Riau provinces, the students will be tasked with conducting a Participatory Situation Analysis and the development of a community engagement strategy to support the BRG’s peatland restoration programs.

They will be supported by BRG field staff and students from the Communication Department of Universitas Indonesia.

Director of UQ’s Centre for Communication and Social Change Associate Professor Elske van de Fliert said the transdisciplinary project was designed to be a life-changing learning experience.

“With this project, we hope that students will learn two major things that are generally not part of their undergraduate program’s curriculum,” she said.

“First, by working with students from a range of different disciplines, they will learn to analyse real-life, complex problems, and experience how they need to negotiate the theories and methodologies from their specific disciplines to be complementary with one another.

“Second, they are expected to develop a deep appreciation for the way communities who live under challenging conditions cope, and what the opportunities but also limitations are of support provided by outsiders.”

During the winter break earlier this year, this unique project saw 15 students travel to Central Kalimantan to conduct PEATLI project activities with communities and local partners.

They documented a comprehensive situation analysis report, produced a set of 14 sample engagement methods, and wrote a series of impression stories that illustrated their diverse experiences and what they meant to them.

Natalie Lynch participated in the 2019 trip and said the PEATLI experience had inspired hope in the achievability of goals when shared and a fierce ambition to share more.

“Immersion in a legal issue with communities directly affected was a profound lesson in empathy and humility and an encounter with the face of law,” Natalie said.

“The work of diplomacy is in the recognition of a shared planetary space.”

PEATLI-1 participant Ava Paydar visited the village of Tanjung Taruna in Central Kalimantan and was involved in the use of LEGO SERIOUS PLAY as one of the facilitation methods to better understand the villagers, their situation, their hopes and dreams.

“The purpose of this methodology is to ask participants to get hands-on and creative, and to tell stories and share visions with LEGO bricks,” Ava said.

“It provides all participants with a voice and can be used as a shared language regardless of social standing.

“LEGO SERIOUS PLAY can be a great communication for social change tool, and the power of play should not be underestimated,” she said.

Oscar Ryan saw the PEATLI-1 trip as a unique learning opportunity, as it’s not every day that you’re invited to a university to help contribute to a multinational student-based discussion forum while you’re still a student yourself.

“This PEATLI experience wasn’t comprised of your regular day-to-day happenings, instead it was characterised by various surprises and punctuated by new opportunities that ensured that us UQ students would consistently think on our feet and embrace the new experiences we faced,” he said.  

For students interested in the 2020 trips please contact Associate Professor Elske van de Fliert: