The pandemic affected everyone, and the Global Association of the Master’s in Development Practice (MDP) programs was no exception. Nonetheless, the MDP institutions used their resilience as a defense against the negative effects of the pandemic, successfully turning COVID-19 into an opportunity. For example, many of the programs offered online classes so their students could graduate on time. The University of Ibadan, Nigeria, used a new course delivery format that was so successful that they will be offering a blended model of courses going forward.
Additionally, participation increased in Global Classroom—a shared, online foundations of sustainable development course that is open to anyone who is interested and is required for all MDP participants. In this class, students have the opportunity to learn from a global thought leader or expert and a practitioner. The topics vary from economic well-being, environmental protection, and social inclusion to governance for sustainable development. As one participant, a professor from the International University of Ecuador, stated, “One never stops learning, and that is what has happened to me when I have participated in the Global Classroom Foundations of Sustainable Development.” Learn more and join Global Classroom here.
Improvisation also defined this past year. Instead of the on-the-ground experiences and field practicums that are typically core components of this degree, the students participated in online, consultation-type experiences around the world. Many MDP students are from a different country than the one in which they live and study; these students completed their field experiences remotely with organizations like UN-Habitat, Sweden’s FormCiv, and others.
Boldness was another characteristic of this past year; COVID-19 could not stop the momentum of the sustainable development goals. During the past year, MDP programs held Zoom meetings and webinars on a range of topics that provided education on sustainable development and inspired action. Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia, for instance, announced that 60 full-ride scholarships would be awarded to Afro-Colombians and Indigenous leaders to participate in their MDP program, showing that, despite the pandemic, equity, quality, and diversity were not to be detained.
Moreover, this past year has been one of growth and empowerment for the MDP Student and Alumni Advisory Council (SAAC). There are currently close to 6000 students and alumni. Many of them used social media to revitalize a SAAC governance structure that had been languishing. Today, each of the six MDP regions has a leader who, together with hundreds of students and alumni that comprise SAAC, have proposed an aggressive agenda that seeks to educate and advocate for the sustainable development goals.
Finally, in spite of all the challenges the year presented, many of the MDP programs met their membership dues, which are used to fund many of the Global Association activities and resources. These MDP programs’ commitment to paying their yearly dues during a demanding year was truly a vote of confidence in the importance of finding strength through support and collaboration.
Over the next year, resilience, improvisation, boldness, and growth will continue to define the MDP community and its activities, along with the addition of reflection through writing projects to document many of the Global Association’s experiences over the past years.