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The Durban University of Technology (DUT) hosted DUT Data Day to highlight how the University collects data and uses it to inform its planning, decisions and actions aligned to ENVISION2030. The three-day virtual event was held on Microsoft Teams from Tuesday, 12 October 2021 ending today, Thursday, 14 October 2021.

Delivering the welcome and opening remarks, Dr Kavita Beemsen: Director of Institutional Planning at DUT gave a warm welcome to all the distinguished speakers and participants. She spoke briefly on the four perspectives of ENVISION2030, which are Stewardship, Systems and Processes, Sustainability and Society.

The first day of the event focused on Stewardship and Systems and Processes, day 2 presentations addressed the Sustainability and Society perspectives. The closing event will be held today, 14 October 2021, where the DUT Executive Management will hold a panel discussion on how the 2022 Annual Performance Plan contributes to ENVISION2030. This session will be facilitated by Dr. Lavern Samuels, DUT’s Director: International Education & Partnerships.

The keynote speaker was Dr Tara Polzer Ngwato from Social Surveys Africa who spoke on Data for Impact: Determining Baseline Data for ENVISION2030.

She highlighted that the process of identifying data points and data sources was an intricate process of considering what data already existed that would give measures of the Key Performance Indicators (KPI), and strategic objectives or establishing the generation of new data.

“It allowed us to look at baseline values, where is the University collectively at the current point and then where in that particular point we want to be going. We have taken these four perspectives and the 12 strategic objectives and narrowed it down to 40 very specific measures,” said Dr Ngwato.

Explaining the relationship between strategy and data, Dr Ngwato said it depends on whether the University adopts a passive strategy measurement approach, or an adaptive strategy management approach. If DUT was using a passive approach, she revealed that it would take the strategy statement, which is the ENVISION2030 KPIs and design a data framework, where the strategy will be influencing the institution which will have an impact in the world. Further, she stated that the data framework would be used in a passive way to measure the impact in the world but it would not provide feedback into the way in which the strategy is formulated and there would not be a clear pathway from the data to the actual actions that create the impact.

“If we have an adaptive strategy measurement approach, it adds the impact, the learning from the data that goes into the incentives of the actions, so in addition to having learnings from your data, it feeds directly into action. You also have learning from your data that feed directly into the original strategy statement,” explained Dr Ngwato.

She added that the idea of the adaptive framework is to say that data should be used for learning which should go all the way back to the way in which the strategy is originally formulated. The underlying idea of this adaptive strategy measurement framework, Dr Ngwato relayed to is that it comes out of adaptive management.

“If you have a medium plan perspective or a longer term perspective like a 10-year strategic plan you have to build in processes for regular review and build in learning not only what the indicators you are collecting are telling you but whether those indicators themselves are there. The adaptive framework allows us to internalise the distinction between the operational data and strategic data. Operational data is what we tend to be comfortable with, which is largely internal information. As soon as you move up a step to strategic data, what we achieve and the impact we have in the world, it gets less comfortable, because you are dealing with both internal and external actors,” added Dr Ngwato.

For DUT to move towards a strategic data, she indicated that it is a brave and emotional choice that has to continually be reaffirmed by the leadership, which is strongly in place and by the collective that is fine with feeling a bit uncomfortable with being slightly out of control because they understand the benefits of the slight shift to strategic data.

The keynote address was followed by the ‘Say It in Six’ presentations, which were six minute presentations from various DUT staff speaking on how their departments are using data to navigate them towards ENVISION2030. DUT’s Analyst Programmer under the Information Technology Support Services department, Mr Mandla Lukubeni, facilitated this session.

Speaking on Stewardship were; Professor Champaklal Jinabhai from the DUT COVID-19 Response Task Team, Ms Andrea Alcock under the DUT Writing Centre, Mr Mzwandile Khumalo represented the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT), Ms Candice Leith and her colleague Ms Sinegugu Zungu spoke on behalf of the Student Counselling department. Dr Themba Msukwini spoke briefly on the work of the Cooperative Education department and Ms Aliziwe Mbambo from the Entrepreneurial Centre in Durban also shared some of the Centre’s exciting projects.

Over 10 DUT staff members unpacked their department’s work on Systems and Processes. Amongst the group were Dr Progress Mtshali, the Chief Information Officer (CIO), Ms Vasantha Govender representing Corporate Affairs, Mr Ashton Maherry from Institutional Planning, Ms Mari Pete from CELT and others. This session was facilitated by Ms Prabashnee Kisten, DUT’s Senior Information Analyst.

Dr Koo Parker: Institution Researcher at DUT and Data day Organising committee leader applauded the speakers for insightful presentations and for their dedication in making the event a success.

Pictured: Dr. Tara Polzer Ngwato

Simangele Zuma

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