On Friday 13 May, Commonwealth Scholars in Cambridge joined the Sustainability and Society workshop co-organised by CSC Commissioners, Emeritus Professor Madeleine Arnot and Professor Sarah Hawkes, and the Regional Network Coordinator for Cambridge, Soniya Gupta.

The workshop was held in the Webb Library at Jesus College, Cambridge and focused on the scientific and human factors of the sustainability agenda as well as providing a platform for Scholars to showcase their research, ideas, and innovative proposals for future development impact.

The workshop theme: embedding sustainability into research and practice

The workshop opened with introductory talks by Professor Arnot, Professor Hawkes, and the Head of Programme Management at the CSC, Deborah Bennett who outlined the purpose of the event under the theme of ‘Sustainability and Society: Scientific and human aspects’.

Taking the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as a point of departure, the organisers had invited Scholars to deliver short presentations about their research in relation to the workshop theme. The aim was for Scholars to align their research to solutions which would have tangible impacts on Scholars’ home countries, for example looking at how to green industries and institutions or protect communities from the risks of poor health.

There were four Commonwealth Scholars selected to present their research and the all-female panel discussed a range of issues in addressing the workshop theme.

Panel session: Promoting sustainability through economic and nutritional growth

In the first panel session, Scholars Soniya Gupta and Ambika Nand Hiranandani discussed their research in relation to the theme of growth. The session was chaired by Professor Hawkes, a gender and health specialist with expertise in supporting policy development in Asia and the Middle East.

Opening the session, Soniya spoke about her research in mentorship matching in the small business sector and the benefits which this can bring in terms of skill-sharing and embedding best practice among entrepreneurs. Soniya expressed how by promoting knowledge sharing through mentorship programmes, small businesses could strengthen their capacity within emerging markets and provide a strong foundation for economic growth.

Following on from this, Ambika Nand Hiranandani discussed her research into plant-based, lab-grown proteins and the potential these new food types have for providing ethical and sustainable sustenance to people across the world. Ambika observed how this scientific innovation had significant potential to alleviate food insecurity with further investment and development into robust public policy.

Panel session: Promoting social change by integrating human aspects and shifting social meanings

The second panel session comprised Scholars Tanushri Roy and Neha Yadav who discussed how their research related to the theme of public engagement and social change. This session was chaired by Professor Madeleine Arnot who specialises in the role of education in relation to social inequalities and the promotion of social equality.

First up, Tanushri Roy presented on how adapting communication styles can play an important role in disseminating messages about climate change and its impacts in traditional communities. Tanushri focused on the role of the arts in reaching new audiences and serving an important pedagogical function in sustainable development practice.

The final presentation was given by Neha Yadav, a PhD Scholar at the University of Sussex, who discussed her research on the impact of climate change in the vulnerable communities of the Himalayas and the specific challenges which the region faces in terms of adaptation and mitigation.

Turning research into practice: discussion and actions

During the final session of the symposium there was a chance for Scholars to discuss the themes raised in the panel sessions a greater length. There was a lively discussion about ways to translate research into concrete and achievable actions, with a particular focus on how to effect change under challenging conditions.

Scholars were able to consider the scope of their research in relation to their home countries and share ways to promote the scientific and human aspects of sustainability in society.