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The school's new Head of Communication, Collaboration and Impact wants to create a cohesive story

Published Mar 31, 2022

David Nilsson was recently appointed the new 2nd Deputy Head of School for ABE. He will also take on a completely new role at the school as responsible for communication, collaboration and impact.

David Nilsson, 2nd Deputy Head of School and Head of Communication, Collaboration and Impact

How does it feel to have been appointed Deputy Head of School and to the new role as Head of Communication, Collaboration and Impact?

- It feels really great! I look forward to working at school level and addressing these issues on a more comprehensive level. It will be a bit of a shift for the school, both with two deputy heads of school and introducing this completely new role where we bring together the work with communication, collaboration and impact. I really like working across-the-board in different environments and to be able to keep different collaborations together. I think my own mixed background both at KTH, in the private sector and at other authorities, will come in handy. Almost immediately since I came to KTH in 2013, I have worked across schools in various collaborations. But this is a completely new role for me too, and it feels very exciting!

How do you view your new assignment with communication, collaboration and impact?

- I think it is important not to see this as three separate issues. They are different aspects of the same thing - quite simply, how our research and knowledge becomes significant and beneficial. As a university, we must work with scientific communication but also a broader dialogue with society. Both tracks contribute to our impact and our imprint on society. This is perhaps one of the most important questions for the academy in the future: How should we think about our relationship with society at large? What are the issues that affect people emotionally and how do we reach out?

I think there can be huge benefits to gathering these issues in one place. Of course, this does not mean that I will do everything, but I will be able to look at the whole, prioritise and distribute. In connection with me stepping into the role, I will also take over the staff responsibility and division of work for the School Office's Communication Officers and those who work with large collaborative projects, which creates a new team with this new focus. It offers a whole new opportunity to really gather these issues and develop the work going forward together.

What is step 1 for you?

- In the beginning, I will look a lot at what has been done before and familiarise myself with the work that is already being done within both communication and collaboration. I will get into the work gradually and I will not take over the responsibility for impact until the end of the first half of the year. My very first priority is to get to know the environment, the work and the staff, and in step 2 to launch and implement the digital communication strategy that has been developed at the school in 2021. In the short term, we need to organise ourselves to communicate better and to be able to support our researchers. In the long term, we need to build a deeper capacity at the school, where more people are communicatively capable. A researcher today needs to be able to speak in front of a wide audience and meet the media, and to be able to place his/her work in a larger context. How do we build that kind of competence? I think this is something we need to start with already during the doctoral programme. We need to create both competence and the ability to collaborate, and we need to review the incentives for collaborating. I want us to encourage more people to step forward and place their research in the larger contexts.

What do you want to develop more?

- I want to create broad, overall picture of what we do at the school, but at the same time make it a slightly more cohesive story. In the past, the school has worked a lot to reach out with individual projects or competence centres, now we can gather a little more around a coherent story around the work of the departments, centres and SIP:s. We need to get the right stuff out at the right time and reach the target audiences in a way that is relevant to them. I would probably call it "organisational storytelling".

One thing I learned during the pandemic was that everything that had to do with health and pandemic got lifting power, and right now the same thing is happening for safety issues. We need to listen to what concerns people, intercept and put things in the context of the environment. It can not only be a one-way communication from our side, we need to have our ear to the ground. In this, the collaboration task is crucial because we can not only read news but need to capture things in our collaborations. What is happening right now in the built environment sector? In the region? This is why it's so good to keep communication and collaboration together, they are part of the same continuum. But they are not cut off from our research implementation or teaching either. I will also work with the school's scientific publications and research strategies.

In addition to your new Deputy Head of School role, what will you do?

- Well, as usual, it will be mostly sports, family and politics ... but if you mean my research, I will continue with my interdisciplinary work on water and sustainable development. As I am both an engineer and a historian, I often move in the borderland between the humanities and engineering. For me, it is important, and developing, to constantly move and change my research work. I am involved in projects on urban water systems in Uganda, India and part of the Mistra inframaint project which is about municipal infrastructure and digitisation in Sweden. As well as in other ongoing projects and collaborations with partners in the region - the City of Stockholm, Värmdö Municipality, IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute, RISE, Stockholm Environmental Institute, Stockholm University and others. So I will probably simply continue to focus on constantly doing new things!