Social and cultural sustainability

Adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit, Agenda 21 recognised that sustainable development in the 21st century would rely upon the ability of healthy communities to develop broad social compacts. Eliminating poverty, and encouraging participation in decision-making by all social groups, were just two of a range of social objectives contained within Agenda 21.

A broad platform in educational research at the University of Waikato contributes strongly to developing healthy communities and social and cultural sustainability. Programmes to improve Māori educational achievement, and to improve literacy, are just two examples.

The University’s influential Population Studies Centre, which is leading the establishment of a new National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis, has a well-recognised range of research skills in all aspects of demography and related disciplines that inform this area of research.

Research contributions in this area by the Waikato Management School include pioneering work in “poverty-mapping” as a first step to tackling poverty in China. The Management School is also conducting research into the socio-economic and cultural impacts of biotechnology in New Zealand, and the influence of information and communication technology (ICT) on social outcomes. The positive links between business profits and commercial social responsibility is another emerging area for business research.

Understanding our cultural heritage is another strength of University of Waikato research which serves to underpin the development of healthy communities and social and cultural sustainability. Current examples include research into Mau Moko: the world of Māori tattoo, the place of the piano in our cultural history, and the legacy of imperialism on environmental and health ideas today. Other research into the effects of global warming and natural disaster in the Pacific rings a warning bell about the difficulties of relocating island communities.

Research into the attractions of video game violence, and into road safety and driver education, will also contribute to our knowledge of ourselves from quite different perspectives.

The preservation and dissemination of knowledge is a critical element underpinning social and cultural sustainability. One of the following case studies outlines University of Waikato research and development of digital library software. This software is now in use in 60 countries worldwide and is being used for the collation of information to serve humanitarian purposes and to preserve heritage collections for future generations.

Te Kotahitanga: Improving Maori Students' Educational Achievement
Te Kotahitanga is a collaborative response to improving the learning and achievement of those students not well served by the education system. The project combines in-classroom research with professional development for teachers to improve Māori educational outcomes.

Lessons Literacy and Learning
How well do teachers use literacy to focus on their students’ learning and achievement needs? Literacy in this project’s context is about making unfamiliar text and content more accessible to students

Cellphones, Young Drivers at the Heart of Research Work
The University’s Traffic and Road Safety Research Group aims to improve the safety, effectiveness and environmental sustainability of the transport sector by conducting high-quality research and relaying those findings in the form of knowledgeable advice.

Video Game Violence: Understanding its Attractions for Young New Zealanders
The traditional psychological approach to researching video game violence has been to ask “What do games do to young people?” rather than “How do young people use video games?”

Tackling Poverty Through Pictures
Nine and a half million pictures could hold the key to figuring out the best way to help China’s 100 million poorest citizens, and the methodology to analyse this data has been developed here in New Zealand by Professor John Gibson.

Population Studies Centre
Under the direction of Professor Richard Bedford, the University of Waikato’s influential Population Studies Centre is broadening its compass with the establishment and leadership of the new National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis (NIDEA).

Global Warming, Natural Disaster and Pacific Island Communities
Global warming and rising sea levels could devastate Pacific Island communities forced to abandon their homes. Research shows that international relocations of Pacific Island communities have not worked in the past, and Associate Professor John Campbell is urging governments to consider how to deal with the issue before it is forced upon them.

Shaping New Zealand's Biotechnology Future
Recent advances in biotechnology have sparked controversy and concern about just what scientists are doing in the labs and how this science is used commercially. This high level of public interest in the science industry has thrown up major issues for business and policymakers as they try to take account of the wide range of often conflicting viewpoints in their decision-making.

The Impacts of ICT on Work and Communities
Information and Communication Technology is ever changing and changing the way we run our lives and our businesses; we want new technology to assist us to change for the better. A multidisciplinary team centred at the Waikato Management School has completed a major study analysing the ways that ICT is influencing and will further influence social outcomes.

Digital Libraries
Organisations in more than 60 countries worldwide use Greenstone Digital Library software created at the University of Waikato, making the project’s website Google’s number one hit for “Greenstone”.

Doing Good is Good for Business
Private sector business has a role to play in social and community development. How businesses can do that and still maximise profits is being researched by a team at Waikato Management School.

Mau Moko: The World of the Māori Tattoo
In the traditional Māori world, the moko, or facial and body tattoo, was part of everyday life. Everyone had some patterning on their skin. Men wore elaborate designs on their entire faces; women’s were usually less complex but elegant, and both sexes had extensive body work.

Piano Research Hits Right Notes
The image of a grand piano on a West Coast beach from the 1993 Jane Campion film The Piano kept pulling back University of Waikato lecturer Dr Kirstine Moffat.

This page has been reformatted for printing.