A Students Initiated Consortium Engaging Refugees – Leeds School of Business

In 2015, 2,250 refugees and refugee eligible populations were resettled in Colorado with the majority coming from Burma, Bhutan, Somalia and Iraq. Colorado saw an additional 3,000 refugees arrive in 2016. This, as well as the Principles for Responsible Management Education Secretariats call to action to business schools and management-related Higher Education Institutions in response to the refugee crisis, prompted Colorado based Leeds School of Business in the USA to engage.

As we continue on with our special theme month focused on Diversity and Equality in Management Education, this week I spoke with Mark Meaney, Executive Director of the Center for Education on Social Responsibility at Leeds School of Business (and also a lead of the PRME North American Chapter) about their work in this area.

Why did Leeds answer the call?

At the Center for Education on Social Responsibility, we feel it is important that business schools assist in the integration of refugees into local economies. This makes sense both from the point of view of economic development and because it is the right thing to do. As to the former, studies have shown the extent to which refugees are entrepreneurial. As such, they contribute to economic development in local communities. As to the latter, Denver and Boulder are sanctuary cities with a commitment to maintaining an infrastructure that helps refugees in the integration into local communities.

How did Leeds respond?

Leeds answered the call because a group of students (CESR Fellows) wished to do something to address the global refugee crisis, to take action to try to diminish the suffering of people forced to flee conflict, and to work toward solutions for the widespread disruption.

I worked with the Fellows to assemble a consortium of stakeholders around the topic of refugee issues, including local, state and federal government officials, NGOs, business leaders from the Boulder/Denver business community, and regional business schools. Members of the consortium began to meet monthly in October of 2015. Over the course of several months, we reached consensus that the focus of our efforts in addressing refugee issues would be twofold: (1) to make connections among the various stakeholders in government, NGOs, businesses, and business schools in order to effect synergies in becoming more effective; and (2) to influence business schools in developing programming to meet the needs of refugees in assisting them in their integration into local economies. To these ends, we resolved to begin the process with a Regional Summit on Refugee Issues. We then continued to meet in planning the Summit.

What were the results of the Regional Summit on Refugee Issues?

On October 26th, experts from local, state and the federal government, NGOs, business leaders, and universities gathered at the University of Colorado at Boulder for the Regional Summit on Refugee Issues, to discuss the role of businesses and business  schools in integrating refugees into communities and local economies. By all accounts, the Summit was a smashing success.

The Summit succeeded in confirming the positive narrative that refugees do contribute to local economies. According to government officials and NGOs, studies demonstrate that refugees are much more likely to start new businesses that create wealth, employ local residents, and stimulate investment. Following upon this discussion, speakers and panelists also related that refugees also pay back their loans at higher rates than other disadvantaged populations.

CESR Fellows wanted to use the Summit to generate ideas about how stakeholders could work together to assist Colorado b-schools in assessing and meeting refugee higher education needs. We then reached consensus on how all stakeholders can partner with b-schools in mitigating the constraints that prevent refugees from integrating into local economies. We also accomplished precisely what we intended in joining federal, state and local government officials, leading NGOs, business leaders from the Denver/Boulder business community to work together with Colorado business schools.

What have been some of the challenges of engaging on these topics at Leeds? Successes?

As a result of the Summit, students and some faculty are now fully engaged in understanding the root causes of the refugee crisis. The challenge has been in engaging the administration and some faculty in embracing the HEI needs of refuges, and then in approving the development of programming to meet those needs.

Assembling the consortium is clearly one such success. Members have committed to continuing to work together to assist refugees in their integration into local economies. Another success is shown in relation to students from various regional b-schools who have fully committed to raising awareness of the plight of refugees among their peers. Effecting synergies among stakeholders who participated in the Summit must also count as a success. NGOs were able to place refugees as employees with employers who have a commitment to hire refugees, such as L&R Pallet and Knotty Tie. NGOs were also able to network with banks with a commitment to micro-finance and then help to secure loans for some of their refugee clients. Employers with an explicit policy to hire refugee are left feeling much more of a part of a larger community. They felt supported by other stakeholders. Finally, the Fritz Knoebel School of Hospitality Management at the University of Denver has developed a program to assist refugees in learning the culinary skills needed to work in restaurants and hotels.

How can business schools help on refugee issues?

Do not try to do this on your own. Take the time to cultivate relationships in the community in building a consortium of relevant stakeholders who can support one another in a variety of ways. Business schools can help in three ways: (1) develop    programing to meet the education needs of refugees, particularly in area of entrepreneurship; (2) support research among faculty that focuses on the truth about the root causes of the refugee crisis and on the ways in which refugees contribute to economic growth in local economies; and (3) encourage service work that brings faculty and students together with refugee populations so that they can learn about the plight of refugees.

What’s next?

To build on the success of the pilot at the University of Denver in demonstrating how programming that addresses the HEI needs of refugee populations can be cost effective for other business schools in the region. To continue to galvanize support on the CU Boulder campus among administrators, faculty and students in support of refugees. The CESR Fellows have continued to build on the momentum of the Summit in reaching out across the CU campus in support of various refugee student groups to demonstrate solidarity.

For the month of June Primetime will be featuring examples around the Special Focus area Equality and Diversity (SDG 10). Click here to see the rest of the articles in that feature.

Integration Programmes for Asylum Seekers – Hanken School of Economics

In September 2015, The Principles for Responsible Management Education Secretariat issued a call to action to business schools and management-related Higher Education Institutions in response to the refugee crisis. Over sixty million people have been displaced by conflict. Although the primary responsibility for peace rests with Governments, the urgency of the global refugee crisis is a challenge that requires support from all actors in society on a short-, mid- and long-term basis.

Business Schools have been stepping up, responding to this call to action with a range of new initiatives and programmes. At Hanken School of Economics in Finland, several new initiatives were put in place that target educated asylum seekers and immigrants including, but not limited to, the Business Lead Programme and a Finnish Business Culture course. As Nikodemus Solitander, Director of the Centre for Corporate Responsibility at Hanken puts it, “the issues pertaining to displaced people have been visible for a long time, if anything academia at large, including our own institution, has been slow to react. I would be interested to see what kind of institutions can say they are not affected by this.” I recently spoke with him to learn more about their initiatives in this space.

Why did Hanken choose to engage in this topic?

The way the question of integration of asylum seekers gained strategic priority at Hanken is very clearly traced to the e-mail we received from Jonas Haertle from the PRME Secretariat in September 2015 containing the “Call to Action – Mobilizing Academic Community Action in Response to the Refugee Crisis”. Of course, there had been informal talks about the situation and Hanken’s possibilities to contribute prior as well. Hanken hosts the Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Research Institute (HUMLOG Institute), which has at its aim“to research the area of humanitarian logistics in disaster preparedness, response and recovery with the intention of influencing future activities in a way that will provide measurable benefits to persons requiring assistance”. But in the Call for Action, we saw a possibility for an impetus, a strategic lever, to come up with something concrete and execute it.

What was the result?

In October 2015 Hanken formed a working group to think about possible action and to form a pledge in relation to the call, the most tangible outcome from this was to create a course, Finnish Business Culture, a 2-day live learning course that is geared towards a larger group of asylum seekers who have a high school diploma. The aim of that course was to provide the participants a general overview of factors influencing business operations in Finland (history, political, legal and economic systems, culture), in particular, the operations of companies.

At the same time, but separately Hanken & SSE Executive Education had triggered their own planning processes, largely inspired by ideas around corporate responsibility they got by visiting Slush, an international startup and investor event organized annually in Helsinki. They were able to develop and roll out the plans very quickly; it was rolled out in February 2016, and the programme started in June 2016. Hanken together with the Finnish mobile company Funzi is a partner in the programme, but all delivery and planning have been carried out by Hanken & SSE Executive Education.

What happens in the mes?

The aim of the Business Lead is an integration programme for educated asylum seekers, geared for creating value for both the asylum seekers themselves and for Finnish business in general. It is a joint venture between Hanken School of Economics and Stockholm School of Economics. The programme aims to introduce and integrate educated asylum seekers into Finnish working life. It consists of four live modules delivered over 7 days in total addressing the Finnish and European business landscape and organizational culture, strategic leadership, finance and sales and service mindset. The participants in the programme also had access to a mobile learning service developed by Funzi and will have the opportunity to take part in Entry Point Mentoring arranged by the Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce. The programme ends with a two-month internship in a Finnish company.

The Finnish Business Culture course is an intense two-day programme which focuses on business legislation, Finnish consumer behavior, marketing to Finns, Finnish negotiation style and management styles, and hands-on guidelines on how to establish a company in Finland.

What kind of interest was there?

The Business Lead Programme is targeted towards educated asylum seekers who already have a Higher education degree, speak fluent English and have been working within the business sector or have been an entrepreneur for at least two years. Candidates for the programme were identified through different stakeholders: service centres, Red Cross and Start-Up Refugees project. 64 asylum seekers (also some with resident status) applied to take part in the programme. Applications were received from candidates of 13 different nationalities, with the majority hailing from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia. Having fit programme criteria and gone through the application process, 38 (of which 6 were women) educated asylum seekers were offered a place in the programme.

The Finnish Business Culture course had 12 asylum seekers from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and Eritrea. Most participants in the Business Lead Programme and Finnish Business Culture Course were well-educated with an engineering background – IT and Civil engineers, some also had accounting and business background.

What kind of interest are companies showing (for internships etc. or engaging in other ways?)

The initiative was well received and raised immense interest among companies in Finland. The programme partners in Business Lead, who offered internships as part of the programme, are Accenture, Agency Leroy, Ajatar, Amcham Finland, Camaleonte, Dazzle, Elisa, EY, Etera, Federation of Finnish Financial Services, Fennovoima, Fingrid, Finnish Red Cross Blood Service, Folksam, Fortum, Hanken & SSE Executive Education, HUMLOG / Hanken, IBM Finland, Iwa Labs, Juuriharja Consulting Group, Kallio Elementary School, Kone, Konecranes, Lumi Accessories, LähiTapiola, Microsoft, Miltton, Nokia, Ramirent, Roschier, Seedi, SOK, SOL Palvelut, Supercell, Elo, Valmet, Varma, Virala, Wapice, and Wärtsilä.

Upon completion of the programme and internships, around 25% of the asylum seekers who participated were offered employment or continuation of traineeship by various companies (as stated before) which had participated in the internship programme.

Do these students engage within the rest of the business school/other programmes?

Not much to be honest. My personal opinion is that I think several people attached to this have had a wake-up call about the ‘realpolitik’ of ventures that are not historically planned to be attached to the curriculum or initiatives that can be seen to be innovative and different. I think it is evident that there are possibilities for great journeys of learning between the student populations. But, amidst this critique it needs to be said that unlike most other institutions at least the structural barriers were low enough to execute the idea, and I think everyone involved should feel very proud of the venture insofar!

What other projects is Hanken working on?

Hanken has been working on some collaborative projects along with PRME Champions group and locally at the Nordic level, most notably being the Nordic Ph.D. course and the upcoming 5th CR3+ conference.

 

For the month of June Primetime will be featuring examples around the Special Focus area Equality and Diversity (SDG 10). Click here to see the rest of the articles in that feature.

 

Interdisciplinary Teams Developing Solutions for a more Sustainable City – Kemmy Business School

Developing more sustainable cities require interdisciplinary solutions. It is this mindset that has framed the Heath Futures Lab, a five-week long interdisciplinary unit focused on ‘Innovations in Health and Well-Being for Limerick City’. The lab utilises design principles to organise the interaction between 14 recent graduates across a range of disciplines including Economics, Marketing, Architecture, Engineering, Interactive Media, Product Design and Occupational Therapy. The researchers were guided in their work by a team of academics representing each of these disciplines, as well as regular input from representatives from local and regional authorities, business chamber, charities etc.

By tackling local issues as opportunities & problems and harnessing social capital, within and outside the University, the five weeks aimed to explore how the combining of disciplines could bring about new perspectives as well as thoroughly achievable innovative solutions. I spoke with Dr Annmarie Ryan who co-led this unit with colleagues in the design faculty of the University of Limerick.

How did it work in practice?

The participants were all recent graduates (within two years) from either undergraduate or postgraduate courses and were integral members of the trans-disciplinary teams bringing specialist expertise and perspective to the challenges. The structure of the HFL followed a Design Thinking Process or a Design Process where the main focus is on making things, testing and iterative development and embodiment of ideas. Those operating within the process must be open to change, comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity as the process itself is non-linear and in continuous flux. Reflection, critique and constant questioning ensure all ideas are robustly tested and refined ideally leading to the emergence of one or a number of solutions that best address the challenges under exploration.

The Lab was deliberately held in an unused city centre industrial building as it allowed for a physical and emotional connection with the city, the civic society and the stakeholders in the project. The facilitators chose the building as it had the added benefit of anchoring the participants in a new physical space which was unfamiliar to them. This encouraged the development of a new set of norms and working practices which would have been less possible in the University environment.

This centralised location enabled the researchers to access the field easily whilst also allowing stakeholders and interested parties to ‘drop-in’ and see the work in progress. Through this engagement we enabled key stakeholders (education, public sector, community and the sponsor of the event Johnson & Johnson) to co-imagine and create solutions for the betterment of health and well being in Limerick.

What were some of the results from the Lab?

Three important proposed themes emerged from the project: a new initiative that tackles the growing obesity epidemic through innovative technology and health promotion to prompt a permanent and personalised cultural and lifestyle change (Saol Nua); A service to ensure timely and aggregate flow of information through a persons life as they interact with the health system (LifeBase) and a city-wide policy to introduce preventative measures and increase resilience amongst grassroots organisations that focus on mental well-being (Minding Minds). Each of the propositions offered independent, but interconnected, ways to address pressing issues around Health and Well-Being experienced by citizens of Limerick.

The final output of the HFL was a pop up exhibition where large scale posters explained the detail of the three proposals. These were tied together with a floor-based timeline that highlighted key moments in a fictional person’s life. The stories of these moments explain the pivot points where interventions offered by one, two or all of the proposed solutions might have prevented or lessened the impact of challenges an individual might face as they journey through their lives. The outcomes of the HFL not only proposed a bold future vision for health in Limerick City it also offered a detailed roadmap on how we might get there.

Was the impact of the lab measured in any way?

The academic team was very keen to understand the experience of graduates working in a new inter-disciplinary team, in the context of a ‘live’ project. An ‘Ethnographer’ was employed as an independent researcher to record the processes, follow the ideas and observe peoples actions and behaviours. The participants were interviewed at various intervals throughout the process. The data was then mapped and analysed to identify key themes and trends. Through this unpacking process the facilitation team and the partners (including J&J) began to understand how it could be modified and applied across longer-term projects that are situated in different research areas. A key emerging insight was that for high achieving, high performing graduates becoming part of a team with people outside of their discipline was a real challenge for them. In order to work well as a team they had to be able to articulate the value added of their knowledge and discipline specific expertise. This required a kind of objectified understanding of their discipline and how it might be different in terms of values or approach to others; for instance how can an occupational therapist and an architect find common ground? How can a marketer inform an engineer about healthy lifestyle choices? These were the day to day challenges and opportunities afforded to the group.

What was the role of the advisory board and have they taken on any of the project ideas?

Every week the groups would present their work in progress to a gathered audience. As such the advisory board evolved over the course of the lab as experts were found to match the direction of the groups emerging project ideas. Representatives of the local authority were invited, along with visiting academics, directors of charities and regional representatives of the National Health Service Executive (HSE). Following the lab the HSE representatives along with 2 of the lab’s academic team began discussions to progress Limerick’s application for WHO European Healthy Cities Network, whose goal is to put health high on the social, economic and political agenda of city governments.

Any advice do you have for other schools?

At the University of Limerick we have been modelling a form of engagement with the city that is particularly rich. Of note in the approach is the interdisciplinary and response nature of these engagements. The HFL was a follow on to the IU Designing Policies lab in 2013, and was followed by The IU Culture Lab in 2015 which looked specifically at supporting Limerick’s bid for European Capital of Culture in 2020. The design studio approach supports the interdisciplinary work by giving a framework for each participant to bring their own disciplinary specific knowledge to bear and work iteratively with other disciplines to create a rich knowledge base to support innovative ideas to complex problems. Rather than a single discipline carrying out one piece of research, the lab encourages quick iterations through different pieces of research where the output of one becomes the input to another. For cities coming to their local university for support, this kind of rich but fast, research that they themselves participate in, ensures that the research is meaningful and impactful.

What’s next?

My main goal would be to find a way to ‘institutionalise’ the lab without loosing the spontaneity and sense of ‘getting away’ from mainstream teaching environment.

For the month of May Primetime will be featuring examples around the Special Focus area Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11). Click here to see the rest of the articles in that feature.

 

Universities Collaborating with Cities Around Sustainability – UWE Bristol

In 2015, the Bristol became the first city in the UK to achieve the honour of being named European Green Capital. The award is given to a different city yearly by the European Commission and aims to promote and reward sustainability initiatives in cities, to spur cities to commit to further action, and to showcase and encourage exchange of best practice among European cities.

UWE Bristol played a key role in the year, not only working closely with Bristol City Council and others in supporting the bidding process for the award, but also as a founding member of the city-wide Bristol Green Capital Partnership (now made up of 800 local organisations). The year provided an opportunity to weave sustainability into the curriculum, undertake focused research on sustainability and celebrate and get people thinking and inspire action for sustainability.

I recently spoke with Georgina Gough, James Longhurst and Svetlana Cicmil from UWE Bristol about the insitution’s engagement in progressing SDG11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities and their involvement in Bristol’s Green Capital year.

How is UWE Bristol engaged in the topic of sustainable cities?

UWE Bristol’s teaching and research mission explicitly supports the development of sustainable cities. We have a number of degree programmes and research centres located across the university academic portfolio that focus on this topic. A few examples include our

World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Healthy Environments which is part of the European Healthy Cities network, the Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environments which aims to develop understanding of how to achieve places that are environmentally sustainable, socially just and economically competitive: the Centre for Transport and Society which aims to to improve and promote understanding of the inherent links between lifestyles and personal travel in the context of continuing social and technological change; and the Air Quality Management Resource Centre which is widely recognised by air quality and carbon management practitioners, nationally and internationally as a leader in this field. The Bristol Leadership and Change Centre is further internationally and locally recognised for developing leadership practices driven by the vision of sustainable cities and the global sustainability agenda

How was UWE Bristol involved in the European Green Capital in 2015?

Our campuses were buzzing in the Green Capital year. Social media channels were used extensively to connect students and staff and promote activities. Budget allocations encouraged engagement and innovative action from academic departments, professional services, the Centre for Performing Arts, the Students’ Union at UWE and others, embracing research, teaching, music, work in schools, volunteering, internships and extra curricular activities. Over 5,300 staff and students attended presentations/stalls specifically about Bristol Green Capital 2015 including 200 events either led, co-ordinated or facilitated by UWE. Over 3000 students engaged, volunteered, interned or undertook Green Capital projects. We had some 600 students sign up to be part of UWE Green Team working on student-led sustainability projects on campus. This is just a brief snapshot.

What was the Whole Earth Exhibition?

One of UWE’s busiest thoroughfares was transformed into an outdoor art gallery for The Whole Earth Exhibition, a powerful visual statement of the environmental and sustainability challenges facing the world as we struggle to provide for the needs of more than 10 billion people while safeguarding our planetary life-support systems and conserving the non-human lifeforms that make up those systems. The Hard Rain Project and the National Union of Students (NUS), who curated the Whole Earth exhibition, invited students and universities to share the sustainability work that they are doing and approaches they are taking that might underpin future security for all. Embedded in the exhibition were a series of challenges to the university sector. When UWE Bristol opened its Whole Earth Exhibition, the President of the Students’ Union at UWE formally requested that the university publically respond to the University Challenges presented in the exhibition.

What was the MOOC on ‘Our Green City’ and how did it come about?

Our Green City celebrated and showcased UWE academics and Bristol based sustainability organisations to develop public understanding of sustainability issues in Bristol’s year as European Green Capital 2015. Based on a free, open, online course format, c2000 learners signed-up to gain insight into themes of food, nature, energy, transport and resources through a range of video presentations, tasks, quizzes and community discussion forums.

Our Green City featured the work of 14 academics, 24 organisations including The Bristol Green Capital Partnership, Bristol 2015, Bristol City Council and the Department for Energy and Climate Change.

We have archived all the materials for future use, including by schools and will soon be creating a series of school engagement and outreach products from the learning materials that will form part of our BOXed project, an outreach programme of STEM related activities aimed at youth aged 11-18.

Did that year change the way the institution interacts and works with the community?

UWE is an initial funding partner of Bristol Green Capital Partnership (BGCP) and serves on the Board of Directors of this Community Interest Company. The 800 organisations who are part of BGCP work together in pursuit of the Partnership’s aim to develop a sustainable city with a high quality of life for all. The research activity of the university supports the work of the Partnership and current activities include Urban ID, a study diagnosing the sustainability issues and challenges in the city region. An innovative multinational Horizon 2020 project ClairCity is exploring solutions to air pollution in 6 cities including Bristol. UWE is actively engaged with and supports (with financial and in kind support via time of students and staff (including very senior staff)) the work of sustainability minded organisations and networks in the city (which in Bristol are many in number!).

What have been some of the challenges? Successes?

Delivering enough support, given the extremely high demand for knowledge, research and action, is a key challenge. Aligning the rhythm of the academic year to the needs of the city and its communities can also be challenging at times.

UWE’s activities to support Bristol Green Capital complemented those in and around the city and our commitment was recognised by key Green Capital players. UWE staff have produced a number of research papers and reports on the Green Capital year which are available in our Research Repository.

What advice would you have for other institutions thinking of putting something similar into place?

Consider the strengths of your institution and the needs of your potential partners in order to identify the most fruitful project partners. Have an open mind and willingness to work through challenging situations. Commitment to the objectives of the project by senior management is important in working through challenges. A diverse project team is useful for enabling action across the institution.

What’s next for the initiatives?

The Green Capital Student Capital project has formally ended. However, much legacy work continues. The project team continue to disseminate their experience via publications and conference presentations in order to support other HEIs to undertake similar projects. An online portal, SkillsBridge, has been established by the project team to facilitate the development of opportunities for students to support sustainability work of organisations in the city of Bristol. This work is being undertaken in conjunction with the Bristol Green Capital Partnership. UWE, Bristol’s sustainability work is ongoing, in accordance with commitments made in our Sustainability Plan.

For the month of May Primetime will be featuring examples around the Special Focus area Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11). Click here to see the rest of the articles in that feature.

Creating More Sustainable Cities – The Urban Innovation BootCamp

Business Schools looking for opportunities to engage with a range of stakeholders and organisations should look no further than their backyard. The community that the school is part of provides the perfect laboratory to not only test out new ideas but in the process contribute to creating more sustainable cities in line with Sustainable Development Goal 11.

Teams of interdisciplinary students at Universita Ca’Foscari Venezia in Italy are working together to develop new, innovative business ideas to make the region of Treviso more sustainable. I spoke with Alessandra Scroccaro, Program Manager of the Action Learning Lab at the University about this programme.

What is the Urban Innovation BootCamp and how did it come about?

The Urban Innovation BootCamp is a 6-week action-learning programme where 5 local companies and 40 university students and graduates under 30 accelerate 5 innovative ideas. The Social Issues that the students worked on included Urban Mobility, Smart Services, Urban Regeneration, Social Inclusion and Sustainable Tourism within Treviso in Venice. The objectives of the programme were three-fold:

  • Innovate the way of teaching/learning in academia
  • Build the 21st century skills for innovation of students and young graduates across the region;
  • Support the creation of a new ecosystem for urban innovation linking civil society (NGOs), academia, companies and local institutions towards making Treviso a smarter city
  • Integrate asylum seekers and refugees.

The first edition which ran in 2015 resulted in a final demo day at the Palazzo dei Trecento, the seat of Treviso Provincial Council.

What impact has this had on the city?

Treviso City Council approved the initiative right from the beginning and promoted and communicated it in two editions. The Mayor was involved in searching for partners, as a sponsor and in promoting a stakeholder network. They have also been supporting some of the final projects.

What were some of the ideas accelerated through the BootCamp?

There have been 10 ideas accelerated so far through the different editions of the BootCamp. A new bamboo park is being implemented to regenerate an empty green space near the city and give families a place to meet up. The sale of the bamboo canes and sprouts will also represent a new source of income for the Treviso Municipality. Another idea is StarTempo, a new social network that matches organisations that implement projects for positive impact in the city with students and professionals who are looking for meaningful volunteer opportunities within the Municipality of Treviso. Smart Home Treviso reinvents the concept of social housing to address the challenges of modern urban living in Treviso combining technology, smart design solutions and the principles of the sharing economy to offer affordable accommodations and a sense of community to its dwellers.

What have been some of the challenges?

One of the goals of the programme was to integrate asylum seekers and refugees. We collaborated with Treviso Prefecture and different refugee associations who selected five university students and graduates asylum seeker and refugees to be part of the programme. Out of the 5, 3 have decided to continue to study at the university. One of the asylum seeker won a scholarship in Ca’ Foscari University.

Successes?

As a result of the BootCamp, all 10 innovators have moved forward with the development of their ideas. Five of them have reached pilot stage. Eighty-six students have completed the programme and among them more than 2000 interviews have been conducted in the community. We also surveyed the students after each BootCamp and 95% said that the experience helped them build their creative confidence and that they learned new skills and how to work better in teams.

What advice do you have for other schools thinking of organising something similar?

We encourage other schools and universities to organise similar initiatives, putting students at the centre of the learning process, creating and reinforcing network of local and international stakeholders and acting as an impact actor in Global change.

What’s next?

We will be organising the next 6 week learning programme on urban innovation in the summer of 2017 (19th June – 28th July), focused on welfare and social inclusion. The programme will also include asylum seekers and refugees among the 40 young students and graduates from a range of different disciplines. In the next editions we also hope to engage other national and international universities.

 

For the month of May Primetime will be featuring examples around the Special Focus area Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11). Click here to see the rest of the articles in that feature.

Eco-Innovations in Cities – Warsaw School of Economics

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 focuses on making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. More than half of the world’s population lives in cities and by 2030 it is projected that 6 out of 10 people will be urban dwellers. Despite numerous planning challenges, well-managed cities can be incubators for innovation and ingenuity and key drivers of sustainable development.

In response to SDG 11 and the European Union strategy “Europe 2020” in which sustainable development, responsible investment and green property solutions are the focal points, Warsaw School of Economics in Poland put in place the Eco-Innovations in Cities project between 2013 and 2015 and a resulting specialization based on the project which is still in effect today. I spoke with Prof. Anna Szelagowska from the university about this project.

Why is SDG 11 so important?

Today, we are living in extraordinarily dynamic times of permanent change, fast-paced globalisation and unprecedented pace in urbanisation. New paradigm shifts move with breath-taking speed past eco-city, blue city, white city, clean city, intelligent city, sustainable city, revitalised city, smart city and innovative city train stations. But there are also smog-cities, congested cities, polluted cities, littered cities, abandoned cities, deprived cities, bankrupt cities, heavily indebted cities and ghost cities. Cities and contemporary urbanisation trends differ in particular parts of the world. But the fact remains that every city faces great challenges and such challenges may be formulated into problems which require answers to the following questions:

  • How can we improve the quality of life and wellbeing of city inhabitants (young and old, single households and large families, healthy and sick, poor and rich), visitors and tourists?
  • How can the status of an eco-city be achieved?
  • How should we plan and manage a creative city?
  • How can we discover the city’s potential?
  • What can be done to efficiently regenerate deprived areas of any city?
  • What can be done to enhance competitiveness of a city in the region?
  • How can the best conditions for green businesses be secured in a city?
  • In what ways should innovative solutions be implemented for the benefit of the present and future generations?
  • What strategy for smart and sustainable development is to be selected?
  • How should the above undertakings be financed with the limited resources of a city?

At Warsaw School of Economics we try to find answers to the above questions in our specialization “Eco-innovations in cities”. In October 2017 this specialization will be renamed “Financial and green innovation in cities”.

Introduce the Eco-innovations in cities specialization

The main aim of the project was to strengthen the educational potential of the university in the field of eco cities. One of the results of the project was the Eco-innovations in cities specialization. This specialization includes a blended learning course with a range of up to date case studies about green/sustainable urban projects focused not only on buildings, but also on transportation, society and other issues concerning temporary cities. The course includes lectures on eco-cities, green urban regeneration projects, green project funding, planning and management in eco-cities, new models of urban entrepreneurship and making the 21st Century cities. Half of curriculum of each course is carried out on-line (15 hours) and the other half (also 15 hours) is held in the form of 3 interactive workshops. All MA students that take part in the programme also need to complete a one-month apprenticeship in companies and organisations active in the field of eco-innovations in Poland. Approximately 10% of the best students received internships in related academic research units across the EU. It is the first such educational programme for M.A. students, not only in Europe but also worldwide. 20 academic staff and doctoral students were also involved in the project.

What kinds of partners does the programme work with?

Since 2013 the project has been implemented with support from academics from around the world including Spain, the UK, Austria, Sweden the Netherlands and the USA. Six teams, each including a professor, doctor and Ph.D. student paid 3-month visits to selected universities in Europe and the USA, to exchange knowledge and experiences with our partners in the Project, to prepare e-books and case studies for the courses as well as to continue the academic cooperation.

Apart from the academic cooperation, the strengths of this project and specialisation are companies and institutions in which our students had obligatory internships including a range of businesses (local and international) as well as national and local ministries and municipalities doing projects on eco-cities.

What have been some of the successes?

The project finished successfully with 118 students completing their studies in this field. A range of workshops and case studies were developed with professionals. A group of 40 students also took part in a study visit in Scandinavia (Lund, Malmo, Copenhagen) in which they met with representatives of green companies, eco start-ups and saw the most popular Swedish and Danish examples of eco-innovations.

Six e-books which are included in the academic content taught to students of “Eco-innovations in the urban regeneration projects” program have been published within the framework of the project. These e-books can be downloaded free of charge.

In addition, an International Conference on Eco-innovations in cities was organised in December 2015. Students of our specialization were actively engaged in this conference and presented their best case studies related to the sustainable development in cities.

What advice would you have for other schools thinking of putting something similar into place?

The dissemination of knowledge about city eco-innovations as well as the SDGs related to cities appears to be the most effective, where lasting interactions take place among research entities (such as Warsaw School of Economics, businesses, municipal authorities and inhabitants themselves). The best way to encourage students to study in this field is the international cooperation between universities (the double diplomas) and to offer paid internships in green companies or eco-organizations. The study visits to eco-cities are also essential for success.

What’s next for the initiative?

We are exploring a range of possible options for this project including new undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral courses (including interdisciplinary Ph.D. courses), distance learning courses. We will be further developing cooperation between universities and companies in this field and engaging employers in the implementation of teaching programmes. Additional career support will be added for students in this field. We are looking into organizing internships and training courses for our teachers and doctoral students in leading foreign and Polish academic and research centres to promote their knowledge in this field.

In my opinion, every graduate of our university should understand a city’s complexity and be prepared to cooperate with local authorities and residents. Only then can business and cities cooperate not only for bigger profits but for higher quality of life inside cities. Therefore our graduates should understand cities and know how to cooperate with their authorities and inhabitants. This is our way of thinking on a topic and it explains why we decided to prepare and implement the project at Warsaw School of Economics.

 

For the month of May Primetime will be featuring examples around the Special Focus area Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11). Click here to see the rest of the articles in that feature.

Take One Step – Engaging with the SDGs at Monash Business School

The call is out for universities to engage with the Sustainable Development Goals in multiple ways; through research, through curriculum and partnerships. But equally important is to raise awareness and engage individual students on a day-to-day basis. At Monash Business School, an online platform that challenges participants to make an SDG-inspired change in their life and document their progress was launched in 2016. I spoke with Professor Michaela Rankin from the School about this successful initiative.

Introduce Take One Step and how it came about

Take One Step is an online platform developed by Monash Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI), Monash University, which aims to engage and educate students about the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through social interaction, light learning content and quizzes. The interactive platform plays on student’s competitive instincts and incorporates the use of achievement badges to encourage action. As part of the challenge, students are asked to commit to an action, allocate an SDG that aligns most closely with the action, post updates, take quizzes and read learning content. It also inspires social interactivity through the ability to share, like and follow other people’s challenges.

The platform also provides an enhanced education experience to our students in order to support the School’s commitment to PRME and implementation of the SDGs.

What are the key features of the programme and how does it work?

The platform offers practical tools akin to an online social network. Take One Step sets out a challenge for users to commit to an action or ‘step’ in their own lives that would contribute to a more sustainable future. As part of the six-week pilot, participants who signed up were asked to:

  • Sign up to the platform and outline one (or more) sustainability action they planned to take
  • Share their progress on this step to track its completion (through photos, explanations, comments etc.)
  • Earn five achievement ‘badges’ through milestones on the platform including social media sharing, liking other participant’s steps, reading articles and completing quizzes

Those who completed these ‘badges’ would become eligible to attend a celebration event hosted by the School.

What have been some of the challenges and successes? 

In 2016, Take One Step was delivered as a tailored pilot to students in Monash Business School. A total of 239 students took part, 87 actions were committed to and 60 students registered for an end-of-challenge event featuring the Managing Director of L’Oréal, Australia New Zealand who, as an organisation have taken great strides in implementing the SDGs in their day to day operations. An evaluation of the pilot found that 65% of students improved their understanding of the SDGs, while 80% reported a greater awareness of why sustainability is relevant to business.

As a pilot we were overall very pleased with the results and have identified technical areas to enhance its simplicity. One option for consideration is to develop a mobile app to support user engagement and to provide simple ways to share activities and milestones.

Our pilot audience identified strongly with the issues of sustainability, and we received a wide range of recorded ‘steps’ on the site, with a diverse range of SDGs represented in the actions recorded.

We have also received enquiries and positive feedback from constituents interested in engaging with the platform. The importance of mobilising student groups and staff members to champion the project was critical to the success, as well as gamification elements of the platform. While the project experienced some initial engagement issues, particularly with students who had little or no interest in sustainability, it proved valuable to focus on networking opportunities and linking sustainability to future job roles.

What’s next for the initiative?

Following a detailed evaluation phase, a number of recommendations have been identified and we are looking at ways we can scale up the platform to enable it to be shared more widely. There is significant potential for other institutions to engage with Take One Step providing them with a practical tools to enhance sustainability education in both the education sector and corporates.

In the long run, it is envisioned Take One Step will enable students from different countries to interact, share ideas and work on challenges together. MSDI is looking to create a dedicated platform for the site that can be customised with educational video content and collaboration tools.

For the month of May Primetime will be featuring examples around the Special Focus area Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11). Click here to see the rest of the articles in that feature.

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