INTOUCH: Listening To All Voices Is Vital

The big high-profile issues of our time – ­genetic modification, global warming, trade globalisation – tend to be dominated by powerful government and industry lobby groups. Often the voices of smaller, less powerful – but no less important – groups get lost in all the shouting.
Waikato Management School researcher Alison Henderson has set herself the task of teasing out these different voices and her work in this area has won her the 2008 Dean’s Award for Outstanding Emerging Scholar.
“I’m humbled by the award,” says Henderson, who lectures in management communication. “I want to acknowledge the amazing support I’ve had from all my colleagues at the school. You don’t get an award like this by yourself – no way!”
Her doctoral research looked at how the kiwifruit and dairy industries positioned themselves on the GM issue at the time of the 2001 Royal Commission. “It was huge issue at the time,” she says. “I was interested in how new technologies were being taken up without sufficient consideration of the social and environmental impact they would have.”
She says often for the big scientific organisations and corporations, it’s about maintaining their research programme or finding new market niche, and they don’t always listen to the smaller, less mainstream voices.
“But alternative voices are getting stronger. People can now mobilise using email and other new technology, and that’s made big difference in ­communication around GM and climate change.”
Waikato Management School dean Frank Scrimgeour said Henderson’s scholarship revealed the importance of the views of consumers and wider society. “Business, government and the community more generally all benefit from better understanding of actual and potentially contentious technologies. Alison’s research shows how business strategy is enhanced by communication which addresses and connects with the aspirations, hopes and fears of the community.”

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