In November 2016, our group of SDD Students started with the International Environmental Policy Consultancy (IEPC). The IEPC project is an academic consultancy training which aims to teach Master students vocational skills such as project management and implementation with customer focus. They work in multidisciplinary and multicultural teams, creating a broader perspective on the project. Every year, the IEPC project is commissioned by the United Nations Policy Analysis Branch. Over the course of two months, SDD students write a consultancy report on a Sustainable Development topic.
Usually there is group of 12 students working from Wageningen University, and another group in the USA from the State University of New York (SUNY). Unfortunately, there was no collaboration with the SUNY this year. Instead, the number of student consultants from Wageningen University was increased to seventeen.
The Terms of Reference by the United Nations were as follows: write four policy briefs on the nexus between SDGs 2 (Zero Hunger), 3 (Good Health & Well-Being) and 9 (Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure). But what exactly is a ‘nexus’ ? And should our topics focus on all three of them at the same time, or perhaps just one or two at a time?
As you can imagine, these are rather difficult questions to answer in a group of seventeen people with diverging interests and opinions. After a lengthy process of two weeks, with plenaries that made Verdun 1916 look like a fast-moving affair, the IEPC group finally decided upon four topics: Insects as Livestock Feed, Mobile Content and Nanotechnologies in Agriculture and Water Treatment.
Thus began our research on the newest innovations in these fields. Rather naïvely, we had decided that we would stick to the 9 to 5 schedule outlined in the course guide. However, we quickly learned that this did not really work: People work well with different schedules, and sometimes it was required to work evenings to accommodate the experts that we were consulting. Soon, we found ourselves working around the clock, conducting literature research, interviewing, keeping the United Nations and the other topic groups up to date on our progress and even conducting a Delphi method. Naturally, at the end of such a day we find ourselves rather exhausted.
But fortunately, our days don’t end when the clock strikes seven. Ever since the emotionally straining first two weeks, the mood within the group lightened. We expanded our dictionary with FAD (Friday Afternoon Drinks), TAD (Thursday Afternoon Drinks), and even house parties for the most hard-core IEPCs. As you can imagine, things have gotten a lot more fun throughout the weeks.
Oh, and we did finally come to an agreement what we should do with the nexus!
Last years group addressed different SDGs and had close collaboration with SUNY. Interested how it went? Read the blog here.