Monday, 1 January, 2018
Professor Will Rifkin is Chair in Applied Regional Economics in the Faculty of Business and Law at the University of Newcastle. He previously held the role of HRF Centre Director for three years from May 2017.
The HRF Centre has a 60-year history of conducting social and economic research in the Hunter region and nationally. The Centre shares these findings in regular economic breakfasts in Greater Newcastle and the Upper Hunter with hundreds of leaders from business, government, and the community sector.
Fostering collaboration between these sectors has become a greater focus of the HRF Centre since it landed, and Professor Rifkin arrived, at the University in 2017. This focus on relationship building reflects the importance of the University of Newcastle an ‘anchor institution’ in the region.
Professor Rifkin and the Centre’s team have recently been involved in research on the contributions of ‘second cities’ to the national ecosystem of Australian economic and social life. The effort has identified benefits to be gained by addressing the gap in national policy on regional metro areas that serve as gateways between state capitals and regions. Clients for this work have been the City of Newcastle, Committee for Geelong, City of Greater Geelong and Wollongong Council. The three cities have now formed the Gateway Cities Alliance.
To provide thought leadership on such gateway cities and their surrounding regions, the Centre organises an annual, international symposium each October. Additionally, the Centre has been instrumental in recent formation of the Committee for the Hunter, a multi-sector organisation providing evidence-based advocacy for the region.
Professor Rifkin previously led a $5-million portfolio of industry-funded social science research that led to creation of the UQ Boomtown Indicators. Generating a small set of indicators of change at the town-level has illustrated the flow on effects across communities from the upturns and downturns in mining and other natural resource development.
Professor Rifkin is an engineer-turned-social scientist. He worked on hybrid cars twenty years before they came to market. He has degrees from MIT in physics, the University of California-Berkeley in energy and resources, and Stanford University in sociotechnical studies. He has had academic appointments at the University of Queensland, University of Sydney, UNSW, University of Wollongong, and George Mason University.
His areas of focus are communication and decision-making among experts and relative non-experts – engineers, scientists, medical specialists, lawyers, teachers, politicians, landholders, local residents, pub patrons, etc.