Professor Sara Bice is Foundation Director, Institute for Infrastructure in Society at the Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University. She is Vice Chancellor’s Futures Scheme Senior Fellow for her work on The Next Generation Engagement program, Australia’s largest study into community engagement in infrastructure, to date.
Sara’s research agenda is cross-cutting and deeply engaged with industry and government. Her research focuses on the intersection of corporations, communities and governments as they negotiate the impacts of major projects, with an aim to mitigate environmental and social risks and optimise potential benefits.
She is Past President, International Association for Impact Assessment, the world’s leading organisation for impact assessment practitioners, researchers and clients, representing almost 7,000 members in 120 different countries. Sara is Associate Professor (Special International Guest) at the School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University, Beijing.
Sara is an award-winning author and her latest co-edited book, Public Policy in the Asian Century is available from Palgrave Macmillan. In 2020, she was the recipient of the International Association for Impact Assessment Global ‘Individual’ Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Profession of Impact Assessment.
Dr Bice’s research and the work of the Institute for Infrastructure in Society is providing theoretical insights, policy lessons and practical tools to support community engagement in a variety of sectors and policy areas. This includes post-pandemic community engagement to support economic recovery.
Australia is in the midst of an unprecedented infrastructure build, made more complex by the technical and financial difficulties emerging due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Institute’s advice is also focusing on how the Australian infrastructure sector can reprioritise, fast-track or resequence projects during the pandemic to align better with the changing situation.
Strong community engagement is important to successful infrastructure project delivery, facilitating the economic growth and community development potential of Australia’s infrastructure agenda. The economic and societal stimulus generated through infrastructure is now especially important. It will play a central role in post-pandemic economic recovery.
The Institute’s research offers an opportunity to use infrastructure delivery as a vehicle for developing new models of community engagement post-pandemic, away from traditional, ‘least-cost’ models. Instead, Institute’s research can inform a shift towards infrastructure delivery that better meets communities’ needs while also helping to reduce the substantial costs associated with poor engagement. This will improve capacity to deliver major infrastructure at a sustainable price point. The transition advanced by this research looks beyond simply limiting negative project impacts towards infrastructure delivery that empowers Australian communities to shape more resilient physical and social landscapes.
The knowledge created by the Institute will also inform improved policy processes to support opportunities to build Australian communities’ resilience while delivering the societal and economic benefits of major infrastructure, especially critical in a post-pandemic recovery environment. The Institute’s findings can be applied well beyond the infrastructure sector. Post-pandemic, an improved understanding of best practice community engagement will be critical to nurturing resilient Australian communities and fostering strong relationships to support economic and social recovery.