2018-2022 Impact Report

2018-2022 RECoE Impact Report 

Executive Summary 

The Rural Economies Centre of Excellence (RECoE) was established as a collaboration of four Queensland universities (University of Southern Queensland, Central Queensland University, James Cook University and University of Queensland) in late 2017. Initial funding was provided and objectives were formalised in a contract between University of Southern Queensland and Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QDAF). The contract established RECoE’s strategic direction by listing the milestones to be achieved. The final milestone was an evaluation of the centre’s outcomes and impacts, and this document is provided to satisfy that milestone.

This document satisfies the final contract milestone by combining two activities. One is a reflection and final report prepared by RECoE’s Director, and the other is an evaluation of outcomes and impact led by an independent researcher.

RECoE has successfully aligned activities of the four universities to achieve all the milestones in the original contract. In addition, RECoE has made contributions to Queensland rural and remote communities by undertaking community development and research activities that were not contained within the QDAF contract, but which allowed RECoE to utilise its skills and resources to facilitate and learn from projects designed to contribute to the resilience and wellbeing of regional communities.

Feedback from stakeholders and participants indicate high levels of satisfaction with RECoE as an organisation, and it is seen as a very useful integration of academia and commerce with an orientation towards facilitating change and achieving outcomes for and with regional communities.

The final review notes that many of the milestones established in the original contract were transactional in nature, such as the writing of reports and papers. However, feedback from stakeholders and participants suggested they mostly valued more transformative outcomes that had been facilitated by RECoE, such as empowerment of communities to take responsibility for planning within their own regions.

Drawing on the feedback provided from stakeholders and participants and the experience gained since RECoE was established, RECoE proposes to adopt a higher level of deliberate focus on transformational activities in the future. Of course, the transactional activities of conducting research and documenting results in the form of reports and published articles will remain important, especially to individual academics and university partners. However, RECoE has observed that activities that empower and equip communities to take responsibility for planning and influencing development within their regions are well received by communities. This also provides an opportunity for RECoE to differentiate itself, and to contribute to regional and rural wellbeing, resilience, sustainability, and prosperity. RECoE will adopt a broad definition of the term ‘communities’ and may become involved with communities of business people, specific industry representatives, or regional communities of people who seek to collaborate to achieve improved financial, social and environmental outcomes. RECoE will also consider a broad range of activities to guide, support, facilitate, train, empower and equip communities to take responsibility for planning, influencing and implementing their own futures. RECoE’s proposed future direction and strategy is currently being prepared and will be documented with input from stakeholders. The acceptance of this document by QDAF completes the achievement of milestones by RECoE under the initial QDAF/USQ contract.