Authentic engagement

Dr Lucy Baragwanath was at the coalface during one of the most complex governance projects in New Zealand in recent years, working in various capacities for groups involved in the amalgamation of Auckland’s local government into a single ‘super city’.

Now, she is bringing the skills she developed as a ‘specialist generalist’ during this period to Victoria University of Wellington as the new Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Engagement).

“While working at the Committee for Auckland, the Mayor’s Office, the University of Auckland, and the City Centre Advisory Board, I experienced the challenges of finding common ground between interest groups as the amalgamation unfolded.

“It was an enormously complex process that continues to evolve, but ultimately it depended on effective engagement. Once people knew you were open to different perspectives and different approaches, they were far more willing to seek common ground with you.”

Lucy’s interest in these challenges emerged during her doctoral and postdoctoral research into globalisation and New Zealand, which focused on the interplay between theory, discourse, and public policy.

She put this research into practice at the University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology, and she sees civic engagement as central to the work of universities.

“Our work is supported by public funds to deliver the critique, analysis, and innovation that leads to positive change. This requires authentic engagement with the communities we are here to serve—we can only play a role if we listen carefully to what our communities need, and think laterally about where we can help.

“Ultimately, I want Victoria University of Wellington to be renowned for actively engaging with people wanting to discuss new ideas or ways of doing things. Rather than simply sitting back and analysing what’s going on in the world, we need to be working with the communities we serve to enable change.”