Hear from our panel of experts about how to use design as a strategic tool to help resolve complex local, global and regional challenges, including climate change, natural disasters and social vulnerability.
Good afternoon. Welcome to the first MoDDD career conversation, which is framed around the topic of how to transition your career into the disaster resilience and sustainable development sectors. My name is Professor Esther Charlesworth. I'm the academic director of the MoDDD degree, and with my colleague here tonight, Dr Leila Irajifar, we'll be presenting why we think MoDDD is a unique degree and supported by the experiences of MoDDD alumni and also key industry guests who work with us during MoDDD. Thank you for coming to this session. Next slide, please.
I’d like to-- RMIT acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the Eastern Kulin Nation, on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.
Now, we're going to play a small video, about three and a half minutes, about MoDDD, what it's about, and some of the stories from people that we really value out there in the disaster development and disaster sectors. Over to you, Andrew. Thank you.
[Video playback starts]
Martyn Hook: The Master of Disaster, Design, and Development is in some ways the encapsulation of the concerns that exist within the School of Architecture and Urban Design at RMIT.
Esther: It had a long gestation, maybe four or five years. I had a lot of discussions through the International Federation of the Red Cross, RMIT Europe, the Australian Red Cross, World Vision, people across the world who are really interested in putting together a degree in the Asia Pacific Region to train the next generation of humanitarians.
Ed: There are going to be increasing disasters around the world. The toll on humankind is going to be very great. If we have the people who already have some skills from a bachelor's degree, from service, and other disciplines, they bring a lot to a degree like this where you're adding on a new component dealing with disasters both before, after, and during.
Esther: As a graduate student, I had the incredible opportunity to get involved in a project to rebuild Mostar. It really got me thinking about these issues and the capacity of design to deal with the complexity of social justice. The role of spatial thinking in dealing with these really complex issues of peace, war, disaster, and division.
David: What I did in my degree was a solidifying of all my city experience that I've been on and working at or developing that past experience in the humanitarian sector through study. During my time as an architect, I did a bit of work with Architects Without Frontiers. I'd been across the board a number of times as been working in that sector a little bit. Even I'd say, through community development work. I really wanted to get in there and study when the MoDDD degree became available, I was like, "Yes, I've got to do this."
MoDDD has enabled me to transition into a disaster-related sector by opening up opportunities in terms of deployment by RedR as an expert on mission to work with UNHCA in Nepal and undertaking site planning for consolidation of the remaining refugee settlements into a single refugee settlement and working with their temporary shelters to be more robust.
Ed: MoDDD is the only degree in the world that I know of that really is transformative. It doesn't just give you a skill on how to build a building or how to work with people, because they have trauma. It gives you those skills so you can manage all those disciplines and really bring to bear the kinds of skills necessary to run the entire operation, like a Katrina or after a tsunami. Not just to be there, not just to be a helper, but to help manage the thing to the future.
Female: MoDDD is engaging, compelling.
[Video playback ends]
Thank you. Now we're going to go into the next part of this presentation which is hearing from industry guests and alumni. The first panel we're going to have is addressing the question of why do MoDDD, according to these perspectives, are four very renowned industry guests. We'll just get up their slides. Our first speaker, and each speaker will be speaking for two minutes is a great friend and a colleague of MoDDD, Brett Moore. Over to you, Brett.
Thanks, Esther. Thanks very much. Thank you everyone for organising and getting together this group of people to speak. It's really nice to be involved so thanks for the invitation. It's been my pleasure to be involved with MoDDD for the last several years now. I worked with Esther and others really, in the beginning, to help string some of the ideas together to help look at what are the issues that are facing the humanitarian sector.
In my current role, I'm with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. I'm based in Geneva. Good morning to everybody. Good evening. Good afternoon. With my role, we're quite a large organisation here and I'm working at headquarters. We really look for people that have had a multiplicity of experiences. We're looking for people that have an appreciation and understanding of the built environment, but also are able to think on their feet and have a wide perspective in looking at multi-disciplinary issues. The degree is really important for helping to fertilise that kind of thinking and produce graduates that can work across a variety of contexts.
Being part of the large UN family, we have around 18,000 staff in more than 100 countries. In terms of the work that I'm specifically involved in managing, it really looks at the shelter and settlement program. When we look at this kind of work particularly from the refugee perspective, the humanitarian perspective, we're in an increasingly complicated working environment. Some of the main reasons are because we've now got more people that are forcibly displaced in the world, around 80 million, than any other point in history. This largely constitutes 22 million, 25 million refugees, and then the remainder internally displaced people.
We've got a variety of different contexts and the contexts are increasingly complex. By this, I mean it's not just about war-displaced people, it's around war and climate, and conditions of chronic unattended poverty, lack of investment, urbanisation, competition over resources. We've got some really complicated situations that we look at. This could be anywhere from the Middle East where there's a really still ongoing large tragic response to the Syria situation, to more recent displacements in Tigray in Ethiopia and also a large response going on in Afghanistan, which has been for years. They're the ones that are really keeping me busy at the moment. We have around 220 shelter and settlement experts in the field.
Then also, the other part of the role is really looking at the coordination process. I co-lead what's called the Global Shelter Cluster with colleagues from the IFRC, the International Federation of the Red Cross. With that role, we outreach to all humanitarian organisations and look at standards and processes, harmonisation to make sure that we don't duplicate resources and waste efforts and we have a well-coordinated humanitarian response. There's an operational aspect and there's a coordination aspect in my role. We're really looking for people that can appreciate working in a team, understand complicated political and organisational dynamics, but also have the sensibility and the heart to be able to work in often really isolated conditions with affected communities.
This is why I think that the work that has taken place in putting together the degree, the kind of subject matter covered, and the full range of opportunities which this degree opens you to is something that we're certainly looking for. It's really great to see some alumni online and as part of this discussion who have also worked for us in different countries. They're the key thoughts from my side, Esther, but happy to have some questions later and really looking forward to the discussion. Thank you.
Thank you, Brett. Thanks so much. Now we will have Kirsten McDonald talk. Over to you, Kirsten.
Thank you, Esther, and thank you, Brett. My name's Kirsten McDonald. I'm an associate principal with ARUP's International Development Team based in the Australasian region. ARUP, for those of you who don't know, is a global professional services firm specialising in the built environment. Our international development team in the Australasian region focuses on the Southeast Asia, and the Pacific. I first met Esther 11 or so years ago, Esther, as part of what was then called the Shelter Reference Group, which was a working group of the Australian council for international development.
I've been involved ever since Esther first piloted or floated the idea of a program such as MoDDD, along with Brett. We hosted the program a couple of times and the original program that was the start of MoDDD, and I've participated in a number of webinars, a face-to-face intensive over the years of the course and also recently worked with one of the students on an industry intensive, which was a really great experience and a great outcome, I might add from the student. Degrees like MoDDD are really important and great value for students or professionals wishing to transition into disaster development and resilience.
I myself went through a similar transition many, many years ago, over some years, and the likes of this course were not available to me then. When I'm contacted by people who are looking to join ARUP or to move from architecture into the international development space, I always say that we are looking for three things, a primary discipline, preferably in my world, that's in the built environment in architectural, landscape architecture which is increasingly important as we think about nature-based solutions and biodiversity and ecosystem services in the built environment.
Civil engineering, and geohazards, also increasingly important, climate science, and so on. We look for project management skills and expertise. We deliver programs and projects of increasing complexity. Understanding the full project life cycle for us is extremely important from feasibility right through to how the built environment's maintained and operated. We're also interested in people who have an international development-- training in international development courses like MoDDD are perfect for that.
That allows you to understand, along with the understanding of the built environment, program, and project management, understand the context within which we work, which is unique and just the basics. We do strongly support MoDDD as a degree in our region that will allow interested people to make a transition or built environment professionals to make that transition into the international development space. Thank you, Esther.
Thank you, Kirsten. Over to Christian.
Thank you very much, Esther. Thank you, Kirsten and Brett. Nice to meet everybody. My name is Christian Nielsen. I'm the executive director of the Live & Learn Network. We are a network of 11 non-government organisations in the Asia Pacific region. We predominantly deal with community development issues, but particularly in our region with the challenges brought upon communities by climate change. We have three fundamental pillars that we work with across the network. We are localised, we are collaborative, and we are fearless in our approach.
We've been for the last six years working very closely with the MoDDD course, and we have currently three MoDDD students working within our network. One of them has been leading our response in the Pacific, predominantly in Papua, New Guinea, but also in Fiji. What we have found with the MoDDD students, many of whom I've been working very closely with, is that they are very confident. They have got a deep sense of adaptability, practical understanding of the issues at hand, but also the ability to work with a developing country's context and be flexible in doing so.
We recently deployed-- this was before the COVID crisis started. We deployed a person in Tuvalu, and the value that she added to the local team in context of technical knowledge, strategic vision, and just strengthening the confidence of our local team was really commendable. Our experience working with MoDDD students led us to actually have positions within Live & Learn that we wanted to be filled by MoDDD students. When we are recruiting, we are wanting to get MoDDD students into our program.
I think it's very important though, to also note that doing an education and doing a masters course is not just about finding a job at the end of it, it's also about finding a purpose and the people that we are getting from this course comes into the organisation with a purpose. We are not necessarily only looking for skills and abilities, we are also looking for people with a strong sense of purpose and a burning appetite for change in the world.
Our experience with it has been very good. I have to say just one last thing, which we are very proud of, and that is that our country manager from the Solomon Islands, Elmer, recently completed the MoDDD course long distance. That was a terrific thing to see. Thanks, Esther, and look forward to the discussions tonight.
Thank you so much, Christian. Live & Learn has been so incredibly committed to the MoDDD degree. Now, my great friend who's, I think ringing from Launceston. Over to Leeanne Marshall.
Thanks so much, Esther, and hi to everyone on the call tonight. My name's Leeanne Marshall as Esther said, and I'm the shelter technical leader at the international programs department of Australian Red Cross. I have been very lucky to have been involved with MoDDD pretty much since its inception. I used to work with Professor Esther Charlesworth at Architects Without Frontiers and we had previously delivered a short course around exploring pathways into the humanitarian sector.
Kirsten touched on that before. It was because there was this huge need and interest of people who wanted to get involved and through that great interest in the course, and Esther's broader work in this space, she saw the need to develop this masters level course that was aimed at supporting people with this background in built environments, design project management, engineering, and other areas to transition into the sector.
I feel really lucky to have had the great privilege of contributing to the course over the years in a number of ways, whether it's to the curriculum itself, to tutoring, to participating in panels or delivering face-to-face practical shelter exercises, which I hope we will get to do again next year when we can be in person again. As Brett and Kirsten have mentioned, I think this course is a really valuable one. At Australian Red Cross, we're also looking always for people to understand and have a variety of skills across the shelter and settlement sector that can assist us in helping communities respond and recover from disaster events.
For Australian Red Cross, this includes a lot of different areas in shelter and settlements, and it might be disability inclusion. It covers [inaudible] * 0:19:30.0 response, passion, virtual assistance, housing land, and property rights, many different things. So, there's a lot of different entry points for working within the shelter sector for Australian Red Cross, but we are particularly looking for people with those established skills plus that knowledge of the sector to support our work.
I found that MoDDD is a really good degree in that regard, and it's a really flexible degree that allows the opportunity to learn about some of these things while you're working, but crucially, it's not just about theory. There's some great practical activities, as I mentioned. There's also field trips of practical projects when travel is allowed again. Also, what I think is probably one of the highlights and what everyone here has already talked about, is that it offers this unique platform to work with industry and academic partners as part of the coursework. I've personally had that pleasure of working with some old students who've supported our projects, and it's contributed to both better outcomes for us and more opportunities for them as well.
As Christian mentioned, the course has given these students a bit of a confidence and more purpose to engage with this sector. You can really see that after they've been in MoDDD. I think in that way, MoDDD is able to open doors for students and it allows them to build relationships and networks of people working in the field. It helps tapping into situations where their knowledge and skills are valued. I know that I would have really benefited from such a program about 15 years ago when I was transitioning into the sector myself. It's great to be involved with MoDDD and really happy to answer your questions today.
Thank you so much, Leanne. Now, we'll be going to really, the theme. Whereas why should I do the degree? Just before we go there, just an overview of where some of our MoDDD graduates are at. You're going to be hearing from Sarah Schoffel shortly. Robyn Mansfield has now set up a small NGO in disaster development, is doing a PhD on her MoDDD thesis around children and development. Alice Lake-Hammond is a graduate and running a big risk program for the New Zealand government.
One of our first MoDDD graduates is working for the World Bank. Another graduate, Jaspreet, is working for GAD Pod, that is Gender and Disaster. Dave Anderson will be one of our next speakers. Next slide. Thanks, Andrew.
Now, we're going to go into, really, the very critical part of the voices from people who've actually done this degree to persuade any of our guests out there why it might be a good degree for them. Over to Ally, first of all. Thank you, Ally.
Thanks, Esther. Thanks, everyone. I am WWF’s Australia Pacific Nature-Based Solutions program coordinator, but before that, my background was really in social sciences. Social inclusion and social safeguarding, specifically. I now get to say that I sit in the middle of a few really interesting intersecting disciplines, which I think highlights the significance of MoDDD. I work at now across projects that have social development, climate adaptation, mitigation, and resilience outcomes.
Why did I choose MoDDD? After five years of working for international Australian aid projects across the region, it was hard to miss a clear trend. Our local development NGO partners were increasingly being asked to respond to the impacts of climate change on issues related to community health, livelihoods, food security, and other downstream impacts related to housing, education, reproductive health, wash services, the list goes on. I think as Brett pointed out earlier, the challenges facing people around the world are really complex, but they're all related.
I could see that there was a bit of a disconnect between the work we were doing in the development sector and the work that's happening in the humanitarian sector and over in the environmental NGOs. We were all effectively working to achieve the same thing which is a sustainable future for the planet and people, but we're just going about it in slightly different ways and with slightly different opinions on where to start.
For me, MoDDD presented a really unique opportunity to jump out of the development sector silo and learn about each sector and identify ways of working that brings people and ideas from the sustainable development sector, humanitarian sector, environmental sector together to try and address the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss. As far as where MoDDD's taken me, I can chart a straight line between my degree and the job that I have today.
So, I spent two years, as a MoDDD student, building an understanding of both humanitarian and climate resilience frameworks and key sector players. Of course, the degree itself is fantastic, but one of the greatest aspects of it for me was actually meeting people from all sorts of sectors. I never saw myself working closely with architects, development professionals, lawyers, conservationists. It was really this cross-sector collaboration that was so critical for me during my degree and that has played through to the job that I have today.
About three months after finishing my MoDDD degree, I joined WWF and was really well placed to move into a new role supporting a new Australian government program that’s basically tying together sustainable development, biodiversity, and climate resilience outcomes. I'm actually working with Christian and live alone as a key partner. It really is a small world and for me, MoDDD did a fantastic job of welcoming me into that small world.
Thank you, Ally, so much. Now to David Anderson.
Thanks, Esther. My name is David Anderson. My background is architecture. I've been practicing architecture now for over 20 years. Currently, in between deployments. I've just finished 18 months on mission. That was six months with the UNHCR as a site plan and shelter officer for the Syrian response on the cross-border operation. I've just come back from one year in Bangladesh as head of site planning at the IOM. Currently working at HDR, the architecture firm that I do work for, and my role there is an associate and senior architect.
I chose to do the MoDDD degree. My background in some community development provided me some experience in working in the developing world context. Also, I developed an interest in and desire to work in disaster relief and humanitarian response. I was always really interested in how I could apply my architecture skills to really serve people in disaster and serve and help the people of concern. The Master of Disaster Design Development really gave me an opportunity to step back and formally study modules and areas relating to disaster relief, sheltering settlements and humanitarian architecture and rub shoulders with industry leaders and experts in the field.
It's a really unique degree in that regard and I enjoyed it so much. The study modules set out systematically and really set out really well. In addition to studying and learning what was presented in the module, the industry contacts that we made, and the colleagues developed along the way was incredibly important. As I mentioned, I'm currently in between deployments. The masters degree really assisted and was vital in gaining my very first deployment through RedR. The masters degree is also looked upon very favourably with the industry as well. Hand over to the next speaker.
Thank you, David. Now over to Sarah Schoffel who I work with almost on a daily basis. Over to you, Sarah.
Hi, everybody. Thanks a lot, Esther. My background is in architecture and project management and operations management. I've had quite a long career doing that. I am currently the Project Coordinator for Architects Without Frontiers. I chose the MoDDD degree, because I'd been practicing as an architect for a long time, and I'd also had a time working in the school operations. I had this quite broad skill set of hard and soft skills that I really thought would translate well across to the humanitarian sector. I was very interested in contributing somehow into that sector, but I didn't really know very much about it.
I'd done a little bit of volunteering. I did a bit of volunteering in preparedness in Bangladesh, flood preparedness mitigation, and I did a short course with RedR just in the essentials of humanitarian practice. Both of those things basically led me to realise how much I didn't know. I was very attracted to the MoDDD degree, because it really values the design thinking and, to a certain extent, the architectural skills that I had. That's not always the case in the sector, where typically, if you're coming from a construction background, then engineering has tended to be sort of more the prized area.
Having sort of an understanding that these skills were really, and problem-solving skills were valued was great. The real learnings that I took away I think, from the course were just a real understanding of the overall structure of the sector. From the really pointy end in disaster relief, through to resilience building and humanitarian development work, which is really the area that I work in and what addresses what you might call disasters in slow motion, to a certain extent. Also, really getting an understanding of how projects come together. All of the players who are involved and how they work with one and other and having an opportunity to actually work with industry partners as some of the others have said was really a key experience in the degree. Learning how to recognise and access really fantastic resources and research and to have an opportunity to work in multidisciplinary teams. That starts with the teams that you work with in your course, just with your peers, because they will come from all kinds of different areas.
Getting an understanding of the iterative nature of disaster, design and development projects and the way that the solutions from one project informed the planning of the next project in an ideal world, but in many cases, they do. Once I had finished the degree, it became really clear that what I needed to do was to get some in-country experience. I took a place with The Anganwadi Project. It's a volunteer role working in India for six months building preschools which really helped me to hone my skills in community engagement and participatory design and to utilise my project management skills and the other things that I'd learned.
Now, I work with Architects Without Frontiers. They were looking for someone who really understood architecture and architects, but also the nature of development work. And what we do is we essentially broker pro bono services of our very highly skilled partners who are architects, engineers, quantity surveyors, et cetera to our clients who are generally NGOs and not-for-profits in health, education and community services in Australia, the Pacific Asia and Africa. Which gives those organisations access to really high-quality skilled services and their project get a good start. The sort of projects that we do include things like women's refugee and resource centres, orphanages, schools for children with special needs. It's quite a broad range of those kinds of projects. I look forward to questions and discussion. Thank you.
Thank you so much, Sarah. Finally, to Lewis.
Thanks, Esther. Hello, everybody. My name's Lewis and I'm a strategic planner at DELWP. I'm currently on secondment, where I contribute to the briefing of the water minister on issues relating to the Murray Darling Basin. My substantive position is a recovery role in the roads and fixed assets unit. Here I undertake the strategic planning for the replacement of bridges and on the crossings around the state that had been damaged in disaster events.
I chose the MoDDD degree, because I was looking to help respond to the climate crisis. I wanted to improve environmental management and reverse land degradation. I wanted to, I suppose, make sure I was part of the solution and not the problem. And I learned just about everything. The course structure I mapped out was pretty diverse. I was exposed to ideas of resilience, disaster mitigation, climate change adaption and the strategies we can undertake to achieve them. Which for me, came from MoDDD’s strong focus on engagement, collaboration and building meaningful relationships. This is where MoDDD really helped me realise that these are the practical tools that we can use to respond to such complex problems. The individual attention and dedication that the teaching team provided also really helped to foster a good learning environment which allowed for a great diversity of ideas and educational backgrounds to be developed and applied to disaster management context.
Absolutely MoDDD enabled me to transition into my current role, mainly by developing my skills in engagement and collaboration. Both highly valued in diverse workplaces and hugely important in strategic planning and land management best practice. As a MoDDD graduate, I feel very equipped to help the department or any organisation to contribute to a multidisciplinary approach in protecting and enhancing our environments. MoDDD graduates are clearly able to work with the collaborative network of stakeholders and experts. They can draw on the technical knowledge of others and listen to the most affected in our communities in order to reduce risk and the impacts of extreme events. Thanks very much. I'm conscious of time, I'll leave it there. Esther.
Thank you so much, Lewis. That wraps up our panel discussions. Again, just an idea of where some of our graduates have ended up, where you may end up if you join MoDDD. Next slide, please. Now, I'm going to pass over for a couple of minutes to my colleague, Dr Leila Irajifar to talk a bit about the program overview before we answer some of your questions. Over to you, Leila.
Thanks, Esther, thanks everyone. Hello, everyone, I'm Leila Irajifar and I'm one of the academic staff in MoDDD and program manager. I'm going to just briefly introduce the program structure and the application requirements and then we will answer more questions in the Q&A shortly after. So, MoDDD is a cross disciplinary course postgrad degree at the School of Architecture and Urban Design at RMIT. The program can be completed full time in one and a half year or part-time in three or four years with flexible online study options. Next slide.
This is basically the MoDDD program structure. It shows the courses is offered in this degree. We have five core courses which you can see in the red boxes. They include subjects around disaster, design and development, shelter and settlements, sustainable development goals, real-world solutions and strategies. We have two interlinked courses on defining and implementing an industry project in close collaboration with an industry partner.
Then, we have additional four elective options in the degree that can be chosen from a different range of available electives based on the individual interest and career goals. You can see some of these electives in the right-hand side of the slide. For example, we have one elective option offered by our partner Uni in Europe which is a workshop and includes a field trip. There is one internship option and some other electives. You can see more details in our website. Next slide.
As mentioned previously, this is a cross disciplinary degree and applications are accepted from bachelor equivalent degrees in design, project managment, engineering, social science, built environment, communication and health. Pretty diverse range of backgrounds. Applications are accepted on an ongoing basis. We have two intakes each year, in February and July. That’s it for now. I'm more than happy to answer any questions about the program and courses and NTLs. Over to you, Esther.
Thank you so much, Leila. Now, we're really into the part of this career conversation which is really over to you, and you provided some really fabulous questions, which I'm just going to moderate here. I'm just going to address quickly the questions around the actual degree, degree structure. Forgive me for being brief, but I really want the questions to then go back to industry and alumni panel.
"Has the course material changed since the pandemic given this was a disaster?" The course material hasn't changed so much. The course structure has changed in that we haven't been able to run the face-to-face intensives in those two years. Which had been an essential part of the degree, but we hope to run those next year. We can talk to you more about that. Also, there's an interesting question from somebody, "I'm currently working within healthcare and interested in entering into the sector, but I'm not sure which degree is right for me. How does this program compare to a degree in say, international studies?"
Very good question. Given that you can do an international studies or international development degree or international relations degree at RMIT, we have tough competition at MoDDD. I think the main difference I would say to you is the applied nature of MoDDD. It's a very industry-focused on degree, as you can see from our panel here. We have found that the transition from people soon after finishing their study into the private-public sector of disaster management development or resilience has been fairly swift, but we have had people from health, from business, from IT do the degree.
How is the course designed around working study? It's completely designed around working in study. A lot of-- in fact our students, people like David Anderson and Sarah Schoffel, all completed the degree actually in one year, and they're all working full time. Now with COVID, and other things that might be no longer possible, but it is based around completely that people have full-time jobs. Most of the webinars are actually in the evening. If the intensives do go ahead, they're not obligatory and you're given a lot of notice there. It's completely uncreated around to create a work-life balance.
Does the school assist with finding the internship? We assist with finding the internship through basically introducing you to people that you've been introduced here tonight. Do we physically arrange the internship? No, that's up to you to do. For example, I've just finished an industry project engagement with three students. One of them with the Mornington Shire Council, who through her industry project was then given a permanent job with the Mornington Shire Council, the other one with the ambulance services, and another one on food security. Through the MoDDD course, you really have an opportunity to reflect on agencies working local and international and how we can do that, and then I'm just going to probably answer one more.
I think there was a question about, do you need an architecture degree background to this program? Absolutely not. Because we sit within a School of Architecture and Urban Design, and I'm into architect, Leila is an architect, and we actually sit in the discipline of landscape architecture, there is some confusion about that. I would say only 50% of our current cohort actually come from a design background. So, that is not a requirement. I think I'm just going to leave it there. Leila, unless you've got any other thoughts around those questions before I hand over some of the questions to the industry panel.
No, that's all good.
Okay. I guess it's a very big question. Industry speakers, has your role changed or been affected by the pandemic? I might just go to Brett here first for a brief answer and then to Kirsten.
Thanks, Esther. Yes, absolutely. The same as everyone in the world, it's affected all of us in varying ways. Here, just on a personal level, I was working from home for more than a year and only really, since August, we've been going back into the office. That was one of the major personal challenges. In terms of the way we work more holistically, a lot of the work was involving field missions to various parts of the Middle East, Africa, Asia elsewhere. That had been largely curtailed.
Now, that meant that there was a lot more reliance on field teams to do the work themselves and for us to transition into remote management roles, which was a big challenge. Because a lot of the work you really need to be there face-to-face, but we found ways of getting around it. Only recently really has access to the fields significantly opened up. So, I can see things going back to some degree to the way they were but not completely and I think that's also quite appropriate. Thank you.
Thanks, Brett and Kirsten, some thoughts around that.
Yes, much the same as Brett's experience. We've delivered a number of projects over the last 18 months or in their entirety remotely, which is very unusual for us. Normally, we would have field trips much the same as Brett would only vastly different focus. We're delivering projects, which has meant that we've had to be much better at really eliciting and drawing out the breadth and depth of knowledge and expertise that exists locally. Then making use of various, whatever tools we have at our disposal and that are reliable in various contexts to undertake everything from condition assessments of buildings throughout Tuvalu, to running a series of workshops to collaboratively develop project outputs whatever they may be.
I might just say that I recently heard a speaker from the Lowy Institute talk about the fact that the Pacific has been set back ten years, at best, in terms of its development from the result of coronavirus. I think it's incumbent on us to work better, and to really think about how we can better leverage that expertise that exists locally. Definitely, has changed the way we work. I think we'll change the way we work from here on in too.
Thank you so much. Now, I'm just going to address a question to the alumni. Around what types of industry projects did you do as part of this program? Did the course allow for industry engagement and set you up for success? I might just put that over to Sarah and Lewis for a quick response, if you're okay about that, in terms of what kind of projects you did in MoDDD that might have been led you into getting a job?
Sure, will I start that one, Esther?
Yes, please, Sarah.
Okay. I did an industry project with the International Federation of the Red Cross. They were looking for some documents preparing which were to do with housing, land, and property situation. Basically, how to gather information in different countries that they were working in for housing, land and property, looking at things like land tenure, the types of local conditions they would be likely to meet. Were they to have to undertake a project there, say, for example, in the event of a disaster coming in after a flood or something, what sort of bureaucracy was there?
What sort of governmental structures and so forth? They were in the format of a document called a fact sheet, which is a standard document in the shelter and settlements area. I worked on that by having interaction with people who were in that area, and who had had that experience of being essentially flown into a zone where a project was having to take place and having to scramble and find that information. Although the actual project itself didn't directly lead me to a job in that area, it was an extraordinarily good experience doing the project.
Because, again, it gave me some more understanding of the way that that part of the sector worked and particularly shelter and settlements. I did as a result also do a little bit of voluntary work with the shelter and settlements working group on documents that they were looking at to be able to work out how to deal with settlements in urban environments, because a lot of disasters are taking place. They don't all just happen out in the field that gets flooded. They're often in city environments. That's really a lot what this project was about.
I did get an opportunity to follow up that little bit and work with shelter and settlements working group on that. It didn't directly lead me into a paying job, but definitely that was a fantastic experience and it just helped hone my skills and give me a further broader understanding of the sector. Yeah, very worthwhile.
Thank you, Sarah. And Lewis?
Thanks, Esther. Yes, well, I was always interested in permaculture, and I approached CERES for my industry engagement projects. I went to India with them and did a course in asset-based community development, and then later helped out on the rebuilding of a Community Development Centre in Lombok. I suppose that did help set me up for the role I'm in now and I was able to utilise the skills that MoDDD had taught me in those environments and then build on that and take them forward into paid work, which is great.
Thank you, Lewis. Just before we wrap up and I answer a few more questions and then I get everyone to maybe say one final thing, I'm just going to go through a few more questions from our great guests here. So, many fantastic questions. Hannah, I started my BDes with geology major as designing for disaster resilience was an interest of mine. I would still like to combine these two interests in the future.
Do any of the panellists have experience entering this field from a geosciences background rather than an architectural background? I'm just going to answer on people's behalf here and say, yes, we have had people enter from a geosciences and environment background into doing the degree. Maisy has asked this is a big financial commitment to me? So, not sure what I can do to make sure I want to work in this industry.
You can enrol in a single subject in MoDDD. If you were interested, you can just enrol, as I said, in a single subject. We've had that before and you could see whether that's of interest to you. The other thing is that we're quite happy to give you the contact details of a few MoDDD alumni, who you could contact about that degree. All of the RMIT degrees is the same price, unfortunately, just because you're going to work in the development sector, it doesn't mean that degree is cut-price or anything. We all pay the same at a masters level degree and funding for degrees is a constant struggle, I know, and I guess one of the advantages with MoDDD is that people absolutely continue their full-time work while they're doing this.
The next question is I'd be interested to know how design-focused the course content is, especially the compulsory subjects. Now, to get this very clear, we see design as the big sense of the word design. Nobody in MoDDD, unless they've got agreement just to, is physically designing a building. You do not need to know software, you do not need to know CAD, that's not what the degree is about. We see design as incorporating all of the skills you will need to work in this sector, including project management, resilience planning, disaster mitigation planning, who are the main actors in the field, et cetera, et cetera.
Another query, I've been working in architecture with specialisation early childhood education, I'm interested in humanitarian architecture. Is there the opportunity through the various career outcomes to specialise in say, for example, educational design projects or roles more towards a variety of projects?
I would say from my experience that working in humanitarian or disaster management sectors is very different to working in a mainstream architecture office. You will need to probably at some point in transitioning your career from one thing to the next, volunteer or undertake short courses with other people like RedR or Red Cross. I think it's probably a bit premature before you actually do the degree to know exactly where it would take you. If you're going to be working in the sector, you will be working across a sector on emergency housing, it could involve schools.
Again, I don't think that you would be sort of-- I can't indicate to you that you would be able to specialise in one field particularly. I think I now realise I've missed out on a few questions here and for that, I apologise. I'd just like to have a wrap-up because we are nearly on time, which is amazing, four minutes to go. Just a couple of words from each of our extraordinary panellists tonight in wrapping up and I'm just going to go from left to right on my screen. Maybe Kirsten then Lewis, any final comments from you about MoDDD?
I can just add to Hannah's. Hannah, we have a-- what is she? Well, she's got a geology background working with us, graduate, working on international development projects. There's a huge demand for understanding geohazards when it comes to the international development space, particularly in the Pacific. Was it MoP Shire around education, we've just finished a huge piece of work looking at reducing risk associated with primary school infrastructure in the Pacific. Yes, there's a lot of focus on how we can reduce risk and build resilience associated with the education sector. I think there's a lot of value in the program.
Thank you, Kirsten. Lewis, final words.
Thanks, Esther. Yes, I'd just like to reiterate that there's been a lot of questions on having different backgrounds and I think more diverse the better. I want to make that clear that it's great. Your own unique background will be fantastic and what you can bring will be different. I've seen a couple of questions about where will it lead me? For me, it changed totally having learned the subject matter in the course. It's great to have ideas where you'd like to go, but the degree is transformative, so it might change.
Thank you, Lewis, and we didn't pay you to say that [chuckles]. Christian then David. Last thoughts. Have we got you, Christian?
Yeah, hi, hi. Yep, we can hear you.
You can hear me, perfect, thank you. That's very rich discussion, thank you, everybody. I guess from my observations, passion and purpose is super important in these career choices and in these studies. Often, people they're focusing intensely on building up their CVs. I would suggest build up your networks as an equal important thing. And keeping in mind that the path to your dream job is incremental, you're not going to land it straight away. Having the patience, the perseverance, understanding what really drives you, is super important. Good luck everybody doing the MoDDD course. Thank you.
I'll go David, and then Sarah.
Thanks, Esther, thank you, everyone. One thing on recommendation, I can't emphasise volunteering enough. Really probably get out there, explore volunteering opportunities that would be in the space. You also use that as a way of dipping your toe in the waters as well. Also, volunteering is incredibly important and the skills and the experiences that you'll learn along the way would also be incredibly important as well. Certainly, good luck with your choices in your careers and hopefully, you'll choose MoDDD.
Mostly, a lot of the things that I would agree with what most other people have said particularly about the diversity of skills that are valuable in the sector. There are so many amazing specialties that I've come across through projects that I've worked on. People who specialise in issues of gender, people who are looking at things like how to make it possible for NGOs and organisations to approve buildings made of bamboo.
It's a very, very wide set of skillsets that people have, and you'll work with and meet many of these people through your career. And just look for opportunities, I guess, and go through doors when they open up. You'll probably find that on any given day, you could be doing very, very different things even when you're working just for one single organisation. It's a really interesting sector and MoDDD is a really good preparation for the sort of diversity that you're going to find.
Thank you so much, Sarah. Then we'll just go Leeanne, Brett, and Ally to wrap things up.
Great. Thanks, Esther, and thanks, everyone. I would just want to build on some of the things that people have talked about in terms of the diversity like coming from different backgrounds, but also then where you can go. I think this course it really is about what you make it. That's a really important thing to take on board. Thinking about where those steps are and a bit like what Sarah was just saying about responding to those opportunities when they come up.
You have the opportunity to be exposed to many people within the industry and to understand where you might sit. There's real opportunity for various different places that you can go, and the course supports you through that. I really liked that thing that you said, Christian, around the path to your dream job is incremental. I definitely have found that, and I think you get a chance to test a few of those things out within MoDDD. Thanks.
Thanks, and then, Brett.
Thanks, Esther. Thanks to all the panellists, really interesting comments. I'll keep it very brief. I think that you need to have a passion for the work, but you need to do some research to understand what that really means. Look at a lot of the agency, NGO, local government, other websites. Look at the kind of job offerings that are available. Look at compendia, such as Relief Web. Maybe we can share that in the chat. I think that you'll see the wide offerings that are available out there and the requirements that there are. Think of yourselves as an international and see your lives, not just in Australia, but elsewhere where real needs are also, and good luck with your future career path and transition.
Thank you so much, Brett. Finally, to Ally.
Sure. What I can add to all of that, that's really good advice, I had really similar questions to what's been put in the chat before I started. I think particularly the like, do I want to go development? Do I want to go humanitarian? Do I want to go design? Where's the risk in doing a degree that does all of them? For me, it was the best decision I made, because I got out of my silo and was exposed to lots of different ways of working and thinking. I just learnt to respect different perspectives in a way that I wouldn't have been able to if I had stuck to a degree that was firmly within its own world. That, for me, was the greatest benefit, was to be able to have a little bit of everything. Good luck, everyone. It's really exciting that you're here.
Thank you so much, Ally. Just one last question that I forgot to answer before. Great question from a student. Most of our students are interstate and we actually have two or three international students. You can do this degree from anywhere. We try to run the webinars in the early evening so that we can pull in the cohort from the Middle East and from Europe who call in. In fact, some of our students are now working in Europe. And so, that was very much the way that the course was structured. As I said, it is completely online, but with the option in a normal year of two intensives a year, two, three, or four-day intensives, which are not a mandatory part of your completion of the course.
So, I'd just like to wrap up here now. There are two MoDDD websites that you will find. One which we will follow you up with information. One is the RMIT website and one which is a dedicated MoDDD website, which will give you more information. If you have direct questions about the degree and how it might work, please contact the Program Manager for the degree, Leila Irajifar, who's extraordinary at trying to put together people's me through the MoDDD degree, according to what disciplinary background or work background they've got going on.
And I think, finally, I'd just like to thank the comms team tonight, particularly Christine and Daniel for their assistance in putting this event together. I feel like we're on Q&A. It's been done so professionally. I wish some of you would go on Q&A, because you probably give more reasonable answers to the big issues that face us rather than our politicians. But anyway, better not go there because it's 6:30 on a Monday night.
Look, thank you so much to our four industry guests, to our four alumni guests, to all of the people who've made the time to attend to this session tonight. If you can't find the information online, please contact us. Again, there are two entries a year into MoDDD. One is a normal March entry point, and then there's another midyear entry. Thank you for making the time. Thank you to everyone. Goodnight, bonsoir. Buenas noches, wherever you have called in from. Namaste.
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