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Interview with Clark Matthews, “Technology & Liberty” Column at TekConcepts, and Dr. Joe-Joe McManus, Director, Leadership Academy at CUNY — UNU Television

October 30, 2008 | General the Dialogue: What followed was an informative and lively discussion about issues ranging from possible research topics, to engagement with Africa, the evaluation of research impact and public-private partnership opportunities. While the pertinence and utility of UNU-ONY’s efforts were lauded by many participants, several helpful suggestions were put forward regarding possible improvements to current programmes. These included surveying a range of institutions in the private sector, the civil society and academia to gather non-UN opinions on future tasks for UNU-ONY, considering the impact of the technology gap on web-casting access to UNU events in Africa, striving to influence UN policy to tackle causes rather than effects of global issues such as poverty, modernising the conception of “think-tank” and articulating the needs of international policy-makers with the means of the academic community and vice versa.

One central issue was the need for UNU to establish a clear and concrete focal point. This was raised both in the context of specific research programmes and the need to “share a vision” with potential private sector partners, and in terms of establishing goals and evaluating past efforts. The concept of “picking winnable battles” was highlighted, to not only increase the visibility of UNU’s work but also to enable the assessment of the impact of UNU’s knowledge production. It was also suggested that an advisory committee of private sector and civil society actors be established to provide a solid platform for future collaboration. In light of UNU’s mission to bridge the mutually dependent worlds of policymakers and academia, it was suggested that both could benefit from a clarified articulation between needs and means. In other words, UNU research projects should be more closely linked to the organisations that have the responsibility, authority and ability to act on the knowledge that is produced. As such, the research undertaken is directly relevant to the needs of UN member states and UN organisations and this research can then be implemented by those with the means to do so. Furthermore, such linking would facilitate the evaluation of programmes and their impact.


Dr Coicaud concluded the event by stressing four main themes from the discussion: the need for UNU to pick battles, the importance of knowledge implementation, the opportunities for social entrepreneurship and the idea ofestablishing an advisory committee for UNU-ONY.

Addressing assembled guests including UN staff, representatives from UN delegations, NGOs, academia, civil society and the private sector, Dr Jean-Marc Coicaud, Director of the UNU Office at the United Nations in New York (UNUONY), gave a brief presentation about the structure and mandate of UNU as a whole, with particular reference to the mission of the UNU-ONY. Dr Coicaud spoke of the need for ”useful knowledge” in the UN context, emphasising the importance of going beyond the cultural, linguistic and fundamentally national divides of traditional think-tanks. After explaining the current initiatives of the New York Office and the short-term goals for the future, he then invited the attendees to comment and pose questions regarding the work of UNU and UNU-ONY in particular.

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