Bringing community engagement to infrastructure projects: Meet Kirsty Jones

15 June 2020

Crawford introduces our fantastic staff, so you can meet the people of Asia and the Pacific’s leading graduate policy school.

This time around, Research Fellow Dr Kirsty Jones talks about her passion for improving community engagement in infrastructure projects, and how focusing on one problem at a time can help you keep a clear mind during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why did you choose to work at Crawford School?

In 2018, I had the chance to work with Associate Professor Sara Bice, who had been a collaborator of mine at the University of Melbourne. The opportunity to become a part of the work Sara was leading for the Next Generation Engagement Program was exciting. Plus, to know that the work would be housed in a world leading public policy school was very appealing!

Can you tell us a bit more about how your research matters today?

As Australia grapples with the economic implications of COVID-19, the role that infrastructure will play in the economic recovery is looking increasingly significant. If, as expected, governments green light more infrastructure projects, communities will see increased cumulative impacts and where projects proceed with poor engagement, communities will bear the brunt of negative social and environmental outcomes. My research is working to better understand how excellence in community engagement for infrastructure planning and delivery can be defined and achieved, and how an evidence base can support improved engagement.

I am also interested in how we conduct research to maximise the opportunities for impact. Given the financial pressures that universities currently face, there is going to be an increased call to demonstrate the worth of research and this provides increased impetus for us all to rethink our approach to achieving impact. Understanding the best ways to integrate engagement into research and how we can involve end-users in the research process from the outset, can support researchers across academia to facilitate their pathways to impact.

Can you tell us about your greatest achievement during your time at Crawford School?

Over the last 18 months, we have been working with the infrastructure industry to co-create the Infrastructure Engagement Excellence Standards. There are two exciting aspects of this work. Firstly, the Standards offer unique guidance to governments across Australia to plan, monitor and evaluate engagement. When the Standards and associated evaluation tools are adopted, we believe they will support optimised community outcomes and improved project performance.

The second exciting part of this work was the co-creation process used to understand the needs and perspectives of government and industry to inform the Standards creation. We were informed by knowledge translation and implementation science theory to develop our methodology and as a result we have received large-scale buy-in which will ultimately support the Standards adoption and implementation.

If you could go back and choose a different career path, what would it be?

My career to date has been very unconventional – my PhD is actually in biochemistry! After working in the non-for-profit sector and then in non-research roles in academia, I returned to a research role two years ago. It was a good decision!

Can you give us your top three tips about how to stay positive during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Stay focused on the problem of the day. Sometimes there can be so many challenging and anxiety- provoking scenarios that might play out, it can be helpful to not get ahead of yourself.

Be kind to yourself. Acknowledge this situation is challenging and that productivity can’t always be what it once was.

Maintain social connections with colleagues. Schedule time for online catch-ups/coffees – informal catch-ups can be just as important as formal ones.

Filed under:

Updated:  29 November 2020/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team