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The Year in Leadership for the SDGs

Advancing SDG literacy and action.

In this next decade of action, we will all be working to achieve the collective 2030 targets.

Australia must drive a bold plan to ensure we reach the 2030 SDG targets. While there is a long way to go, there are also some positive long-term trends in Australia upon which we can build: average life expectancy for both sexes, proportion of people with tertiary education, water consumption, growth rates in household income, and the share of ASX200 companies submitting credible sustainability reports.

Monash University provides us with clear leadership for the SDGs. The SDGs connect to everything that we do at MSDI and they provide a framework for our strategic priorities.

Our role is to connect knowledge and networks. We are trusted advisors to government and business. We draw together diverse points of view for learning and sharing. And we create the space and structure to experiment, push boundaries, and scale up.

Our education programs teach students the importance of personal leadership to enable them to lead from where they are. In turn, working with these students who bring their curiosity, commitment and passion, gives us energy and hope for the future.

Using the SDGs in reporting, planning and policy making

Purpose-led projects accelerate our achievement of the SDGs.

The International Science Council (ISC) outlines the importance of funding research and capacity building for purpose-led projects in their report, Unleashing Science: Delivering Missions for Sustainability. MSDI Director, Professor Tony Capon, was one of the seven-person Scientific Advisory Group for the report, with BehaviourWorks Australia also contributing knowledge on the value of behaviour change research.

MSDI is also contributing to leading research and evidence that helps global leaders and practitioners achieve their SDG targets. The Global Sustainable Development Report is produced every four years in line with the UN’s SDG Summit. MSDI’s Dr Shirin Malekpour is one of 15 international experts on the panel who helped to formulate the report’s framework in 2021. Different MSDI units, from Research to Policy and Impact, are supporting the process by gathering evidence-based information from experts throughout the region to spread across the globe successful developments towards the SDGs.

Learn more about our work in this space:

Unleashing Science: Delivering Missions for Sustainability report

2023 Global Sustainable Development Report

Collaborating towards the 2030 goals

Changing three simple behaviours can reduce carbon emissions caused by food waste.

Australia has adopted an SDG 12.3 target to halve its food waste by 2030. With a goal to develop an impactful campaign and inspire citizen action, OzHarvest approached BehaviourWorks Australia to conduct new research into the behaviours that matter most. BehaviourWorks Australia applied its Impact Likelihood Index to identify key behaviours to reduce household food waste. This is the first time such innovative methods and in-depth insights have been used for household food waste behaviours. The first three behaviours are: establish a ‘use-it-up’ shelf in the fridge or pantry; plan your menus, once a week make a weekly meal that combines food that needs to be used up; and check who’s home before cooking. The matrix will allow OzHarvest to track their progress and build on the campaign by targeting new behaviours.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is also proving a useful tool in helping to achieve the SDGs. Our AI for Better Governance program succeeded in demonstrating the public value of using Bayesian networks (a form of machine learning) to tackle complex public decision-making, such as achieving the SDGs. The program is a partnership between MSDI, Faculty of Information Technology, Monash Data Futures Institute, and the Better Governance and Policy Initiative. Our project team worked with water experts across the Victorian government and beyond to identify and quantitatively prioritise opportunities to reduce nitrogen waste in the Bay.

MSDI and the MSDI-hosted Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Regional Network for Australia, New Zealand & Pacific (SDSN AusNZPac) were key partners in developing the global SDSN guide, Accelerating Education for the SDGs in Universities. The guide has since become the global SDSN’s most accessed resource, with over 60,000 views and translations into five languages. In 2021, SDSN AusNZPac helped lead guide follow-up activities, including the collection of 75 inspiring case studies showcasing how universities around the world are implementing education for the SDGs, and the organisation of a workshop for the AusNZPac region with over 200 attendees.

Learn more about our work in this space:

OzHarvest Food Waste campaign

Port Phillip Bay Nutrient Modelling using Bayesian Networks

Sustainable Development Solutions Network Australia, New Zealand & Pacific

We are a living lab

Green Steps is an award-winning, co-curricular program that develops student leaders and change agents for sustainable development.

The course is a partnership with Monash University’s Campus Sustainability, Buildings & Property Division (BPD) and new partner Enel Green Power Australia (EGPA). In 2021, 30 students participated in the training with six teams, comprising 26 students undertaking a consultancy project with BPD or EGPA. These projects offered students an opportunity to work on real life projects such as removing single use plastic from campus retail, exploring options to create pollinator-friendly environments for native species of insects and exploring potential options for co-use of land at large-scale solar plants. In 2021, all students perceived Green Steps as a valuable program and would recommend it to other students (100%). The overwhelming majority have a better understanding of the steps to take to implement sustainability initiatives within an organisation (96%), are more likely to pursue a career related to sustainability (92%), and feel more motivated to solve social and environmental challenges than before (96%).

Learn more about our work in this space:

Green Steps course

Case studies

Helping governments gain behavioural insights for sustainable outcomes

We’re helping decision makers to solve the hard questions of our time.

In 2021, BehaviourWorks Australia delivered the Applying Behavioural Science to Create Change microcredential to over 200 public servants and policy makers from eight countries.

The eight-module course runs over 10 weeks and is underpinned by the SDGs. The course supports participants in applying a behaviour change approach to improve program outcomes.

“I really liked the fact that there was an appropriate focus on deeply understanding the problem before racing to interventions, and also on the role of behavioural interventions within the context of the broader system (rather than an assumption that a behavioural nudge is always/alone the right solution).” – Microcredential participant

In July, BehaviourWorks Australia ran a tailored version of the course for the road safety sector, as part of the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) Graduate Certificate in Road Safety. In October, BehaviourWorks Australia delivered the microcredential in partnership with Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) and welcomed participants from Australia’s federal, state and territory governments as well as representatives from the New Zealand and Finnish governments.

Microcredential participants represent all levels of public service, from front line workers to policy managers and engagement officers, to senior advisors, managers and directors, across a broad range of departments, agencies and sectors, including: Victoria Police, ASIC, health, agriculture, environment and transport departments, as well as the road safety sector.

Despite these differences, our participants share a common goal; working with the general public to create positive and sustainable change, through incorporating a behavioural perspective.

MSDI Capacity: Shaping and creating policy, agenda setting and narrative building to inform practice change.

Valuing our teams through learning and sharing

We’re growing through peer support and skills development.

At MSDI, we help our team to develop their skills, and give them the space to support each other’s learning, so they can have a greater impact through their work.

Team members from ClimateWorks set up the Systems Change community of practice in late 2020 as an informal lunchtime learning opportunity for anyone exploring systems change.

In 2021, the group was made up of 63 people from across MSDI. Each month between 20-30 people would meet online for an hour to learn from colleagues, problem-solve challenges and share learning and insight.

“I've got a bunch of new things on my reading list and swirling in my brain as a result and I really appreciate you fostering the conversation – I feel privileged to be part of a CoP that's generating such rich discussion.” – Lecture, David Robertson

No matter where people are on their journey of understanding and working towards systems change in their work, the community of practice has become a valuable space for our MSDI team to build their knowledge and confidence. The group has given the members the chance to connect with each other, gaining a better understanding of each other’s work and the opportunity to reach out for future collaborations. It is a place that connects research with practice and education to ensure that we can create successful and impactful change in the world.

MSDI also offers our people more formal learning opportunities.

Everyday, many of our MSDI team members meet with project partners and colleagues. Which means that everyday they can facilitate discussions that could lead to powerful change.

That’s why MSDI offered its team a facilitation course that enables participants to improve their ability to clarify, influence and inspire others, which hastens the pace of change.

Course leader, Aaron Densham says, “People come out more confident of themselves and how they are as a leader.”

The course builds our team’s skills to design and deliver effective facilitation. At MSDI, facilitation is delivered in many ways from co-designing projects, to strategy meetings, team meetings, stakeholder engagement, training and more.

The course leaders come from multiple MSDI units and create a warm, connected and safe space where participants can be themselves as well as be challenged to realise their potential. Essentially, these are the qualities of good facilitators, mentors and leaders; the qualities that we need at MSDI to influence change, transform systems and achieve our vision.

MSDI Capability: Build capacity and empower leadership by building the skillsets and mindsets for effective action, enabling people to lead from where they are.

Staff profile: Isabelle Zhu-Maguire, UN SDSN Youth Coordinator

woman with brown hair and dark top smiling in front of green tree background

Creating a platform for the voice of young people.

Isabelle’s role at the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Youth initiative is to engage fellow young people on the sustainability issues they care about to elevate their voices and build their capacity to fight the good fight.

Isabelle says, “Young people are such an amazing resource. Their enthusiasm and innovative spirit are fantastic things to tap into. If there’s ever a problem that can’t be solved, get some young people in the room.”

She is looking after the youth activities/program of the SDSN Regional Network for Australia, NZ and Pacific, which is hosted by MSDI, while also studying for her double Bachelor degree in Commerce and Global Studies at Monash.

Since she started in August, Isabelle has been organising online events that create networking opportunities with peers as well as changemakers; provide leadership opportunities; link sustainability groups across the region; advocate for young people; and provide them with a platform to engage with the big questions of our age and be heard.

Isabelle says, “I want to see a future free from worry about the future. I’m working towards a world where we are working together and solving issues effectively. Young people are creating change and they are leading in their communities. Every time I walk away from a conversation, I feel inspired and it propels me to keep going.”

At MSDI, we’re glad Isabelle and her peers are part of the conversation and searching for solutions together. It keeps us energised too.

MSDI Capability: Facilitate collaboration by creating and strengthening partnerships and aligning stakeholders for co-ordinated action.

OzHarvest ‘Use it Up’ Campaign

a bag of spinach with yellow tape on it with the words use me up

Leading food rescue organisation OzHarvest wanted to develop an impactful food waste campaign to reduce household food waste.

They approached BehaviourWorks Australia to help understand this complex issue and conduct new research into which behaviours matter the most. The findings from the research informed the Use It Up campaign, launched on International Food Loss and Waste Day 2021.

The MSDI behavioural change framework was applied to help identify behaviours that reduce the amount of food Australians throw away. The process involved a review of Australian and international literature and workshops with food waste experts to collate a long list of behaviours to reduce food waste.

OzHarvest’s Sustainability Strategist, Annika Stott says, “Food waste is complex. At OzHarvest, we want to make it easy for people to take action on food waste in their homes. The research made it clear which behaviours we should target. It gave us confidence in developing our campaign and avoided us making assumptions. The matrix helped us design the Use It Up campaign and we intend to continue to use it to inform future campaigns.”

To prioritise the most appropriate behaviours, BehaviourWorks Australia conducted surveys with national and international food waste experts to rank the behaviours based on their perceived impact. Then 1600 Australian households completed surveys to determine their current participation in these behaviours and their likelihood of adopting the behaviours.

The insights were then plotted on an impact-likelihood matrix, which provides a visual decision making tool for different behaviours to target, based on their impact, likelihood of uptake and their current adoption rates.

Armed with these insights, OzHarvest developed the campaign Use It Up targeting the most impactful behaviours, including having a Use-It-Up shelf, and cooking a weekly Use-It-Up meal. To get the nation on board and inspire behavioural change, OzHarvest designed a new product to make it easy for people to waste less at home. The Use It Up tape helps people see what food needs using up by marking out a shelf or space in the fridge, freezer or pantry, or using as stickers on food or containers.

To help build long-term behavioural change OzHarvest is planning further elements for campaign amplification over the next 12 months. BehaviourWorks Australia will be assisting in running surveys to capture the food waste and behavioural impact of the Use It Up tape.

You can find out more about the research on the OzHarvest website and check out Use It Up.

MSDI Capability: Understand and influence behaviour by developing tools and frameworks to diagnose problems and guide action.