Please note: due to the completion of the project, this website is now in archive status. Visit the new Blue Communities legacy website here for final outputs and any future updates.
18 December 2020
By Wan Nur Syazana Wan Mohamad Ariffin & Nurul Kamila Mohd Yusof, University of Malaya

The first quarter of 2020 for the Malaysian Case Study had progressed smoothly, with continuous stakeholder engagement at different levels as well as data collection at the case study site of Tun Mustapha Park (TMP), Sabah.

2nd runner up of the Photovoice competition - Siti Maisarah binti Mohd AffendySeveral projects, including Project 2, 3/8 and 6, have completed their data collection stage while Project 12 has just begun with their fieldwork. The detailed activities for each project of the Malaysian Case Study are detailed in the diagram to the right.

However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, research activities were impacted for the BC MY team as Malaysia went into a nationwide lockdown (Movement Control Order - MCO) for nearly three months beginning 18th March 2020. After the lockdown was lifted, the nation entered the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) followed by the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO). However, the team had to continuously postpone research activities in the field while certain activities were shifted to virtual mode, due to the uncertainties behind the pandemic including travel restrictions and strict Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) imposed by the government. 

BC_MY_bi-monthly_meeting_conducted_virtually_due_to_COVID-19.jpgDespite the negativity surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the team managed to find a silver lining during the three month-long lockdowns. The time being confined to our own houses, with very limited movement, was mostly spent on reflecting the past BC MY activities undertaken and the current research impacted by the outbreak.

Before the pandemic took over, BC MY had been actively conducting fieldwork and engaging with local stakeholders in TMP. During the lockdown phase, the team took the opportunity to shift our focus towards analysing data, planning for publications, drafting and writing manuscripts and exploring ideas for future research activities to suit the new norms. The team as a whole was presented with opportunities to learn and adapt to the digital technologies, considering all work had to be done remotely. The shift from physical to virtual mode of meetings, discussions, conferences and more had reduced the cost that would otherwise be incurred from traveling. This provides opportunities for the budget to be allocated for more research-related work such as publication charges, webinars and more.

festival3_(2).jpgThe opportunities stretched to the stakeholders in TMP as well, particularly the local communities. The local communities started exploring and learning to use online platforms for communication, such as Zoom and Google Meet, to participate in BC MY activities. Face-to-face interviews were changed to phone interviews. Having the opportunity to participate in the research activities virtually allows for more participation as they can join from the home/workplace, thus cutting down on travel time and costs.

Despite the distant location between the BC MY team based in Kuala Lumpur and the schools based in the three districts of Kudat, Kota Marudu and Pitas, the TMP Communities Festival conducted in September 2020 was successful using Zoom. However, there are drawbacks to such methods. Poor phone and internet networks are the main obstacles faced by the local communities due to their remoteness. Interviewees had to search for areas away from their houses to be able to receive the call. Engagement could also be difficult for the less fortunate as they might not have access to computers and the internet to begin with.

The COVID-19 pandemic had transformed everyone’s lives at an unprecedented scale forcing us to change and adapt quickly to the situation. As we are most likely part of this for the long haul, it will be a good opportunity to promote more use of online platforms for communication with the stakeholders, which might increase participation.

1st runner up of the Photovoice competition - Siti Maisarah binti Mohd AffendyIn bidding goodbye to the challenging 2020, various activities have been planned by the BC MY team for 2021. These include Project 12 future scenario workshops with stakeholders, the educational comic survey with school students under the Early Career Researchers Network pilot grant, Project 6 stakeholder workshop with state health department to present the data from the health surveys, and courtesy visits to local authorities for further networking and discussion. Furthermore, an internal workshop to gather outputs from all projects and discuss dissemination strategies will also be held next year. The team as a whole is looking forward to a more positive 2021 with more engagement with stakeholders in TMP.

To return to Blue Communities News December 2020, please click here.

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