Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) engages SDSN Malaysia Sub-State-Level Dashboard for University Community Outreach Tool

On 16 March 2023, Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) invited the SDSN Malaysia to brief staff on the use of Malaysia’s first District Level dashboard for its university-wide community outreach programme. Since the SDGs for Malaysian States dashboard was launched in 2022, the team at SDSN Malaysia has embarked on further localising the dashboard to Sub-State with Kedah as its pilot. Kedah, a state in northern peninsular Malaysia, is home to UUM, one of Malaysia’s largest public universities.

SDSN Malaysia UUM Focal Points Assoc Prof Masnita Misiran @ Bakun and Dr Saadi Ahmad Kamaruddin played key roles in organising the briefing.

Misiran and Kamaruddin are from the Centre for Testing, Measurement and Appraisal (CeTMA). CeTMA’s role in UUM’s sustainability transformation involves setting localised campus indicators, convening multidisciplinary taskforces of UUM academics to develop sustainability solutions initiatives, and moblising a whole-of-campus approach.

Mdm. Rohani Abdullah (Deputy Director of CeTMA), Dr Saadi Ahmad Kamaruddin (Deputy Director of CeTMA), Mr Amirul ​Haziq bin Abd Kadir​ (MySTEP), Assoc Prof Masnita Misiran @ Bakun (Director of CeTMA)

22 coordinating administrators and academics from UUM’s Community Outreach Programme or MEKAR programme (Membina Kesejahteraan Rakyat) attended the briefing. The MEKAR programme formalises UUM’s role in the state’s community development as it strategically involves all 3 UUM Colleges, and therefore all of its 16 schools. Briefing the MEKAR coordinating officers familiarised them with the Sub-State Malaysian SDG Dashboard, thereby paving the way to its use preliminary tool for intervention design.

MEKAR is an initiative to undertake university-to-community knowledge transfer in a formalised way.

Danesh Prakash Chacko from the Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development conducted the briefing. Participants were familiarised with the methodology and were given a demonstration of the Kedah Sub-State website. Chacko focused on the SDG performance for the state of Kedah, showed participants an overview of Kedah’s Major SDG Challenges. The dashboard is hosted on the ArcGIS ESRI platform, which provides visual representations of data in the form of interactive maps. This includes visualisations which compare pre-and-post COVID-19 assessment for selected SDGs.

“You can click on this [each district] and it will give you information,” explained Chacko as he demonstrated the interactive maps.

Chacko raised the ability to identify Districts to target interventions, “for the action plan you can focus on Districts like Yan, Kuala Muda.” The dashboard may spur participants’ thinking when development perceptions do not align with assessments seen. “Sungai Petani is an economic hub full of industries, why is there [high] absolute poverty?” reflected Chacko.

The dashboard methodology was conveyed to participants, specifically, participants were given an overview of trend, rating and score.

Kamaruddin served as moderator for the 2 hour-long briefing with Kong Phui Yi, SDSN Malaysia Network Manager, as support during Question and Answer.

“Hopefully at the end of the programme we can align community projects with the SDG performance for Kedah, ” was Kamaruddin’s vision for the session. Kamaruddin introduced SDSN as an organisation and the function of the SDG Dashboard to the participants. “Experts who are doing sustainability efforts in Kedah can troubleshoot lots of problems in Kedah [using the dashboard],” reflected Kamaruddin.

Participants asked about the methodology to measure SDG achievement. Chacko gave an explanation of trend, score and rating, pointing participants to the Methodology section within the dashboard website.

A participant, Dr Darwinda Pero, from UUM’s School of International Studies asked about interventions for the State Assembly Kuala Nerang, located in the northern district of Kubang Pasu. Kong highlighted a plan of action for Kuala Nerang, “[Firstly] you can look at entrepreneurial support for women, skills, bringing their products to market and small business support.”

“Secondly, environmental awareness, to tell them about the benefits of ecosystem services in order to inform the local community to remind their local government to keep the forest intact, and lastly, because of uneven income distribution, you can see if there are areas that are underserved, as a way for information to flow, because sometimes the welfare officers may not have the capacity to cover the district sufficiently.” The Sub-State Dashboard’s interactive maps enable the user to assess appropriate starting-points to assess local SDG gaps.

The Kedah Sub-State Dashboard also makes available more granular level assessments. The State has 12 Districts, further broken down into 36 State Constituencies.

The session further served to link UUM’s staff to SDSN resources. Kamaruddin ended the session by encouraging the participants to make use of accessible online material to learn more about sustainable development, specifically the SDG Academy’s Library. Looking forward, the participants were informed of the opportunity to participate in an upcoming localisation project of primary and secondary school lesson plans into the Malay language, coordinated by both UUM Focal Points Masnita and Kamaruddin.