Envisioning the U!REKA way forward

1 Jul 2021 17:33 | Communication

A place where we can communicate better, more student involvement, a U!REKA summer school. These were just a few of the ideas shared during an interactive brainstorm session on 18 June, focusing on the future of the U!REKA network.

The Urban Research and Education Knowledge Alliance, U!REKA, is nearing its fifth birthday. An ideal moment to reflect on where we stand, what our challenges and opportunities are as a network and what we’re going to prioritise going forward. This was the aim of a two-hour online session that brought over 60 colleagues together from all partner institutions to discuss what’s next.

Back to basics

There was a lot to talk about during the ambitious meeting, which saw participants break out into groups to ask the important questions: What defines us as a network? What do we want to achieve? Who contributes what? What will we prioritise in the short term?

By breaking the topics down into four categories: Actors, Ambitions, Fundament and Identity, each group dove into a variety of conversation starters that challenged them to quickly get to the core of the matter.

While some of the questions were philosophical in nature the session always came back to the basics – how are we going to turn our aspirations into concrete actions, and when exactly? One example that came up was the need for a digital space where we can easily connect as a network – finding out who is who, both within our institutions and across borders. Or the need for more awareness of the U!REKA network among students and involvement across all levels as opposed to some of the more traditionally ‘top-down’ groups within the alliance.

Valuable contributions

Diverse perspectives were shared, thanks to the good representation of people from all corners of the alliance – from working group members to students, researchers, administrative employees, steering committee members and teaching staff.

“The diversity of our network is one of our strengths – while we have much in common across our eight European higher education institutions we also have unique knowledge to share. This was apparent during the ‘way forward’ session, which generated fantastic input and ideas from across the network. Many thanks to everyone who participated – we value your contributions. After all, U!REKA is what we make it, it’s up to us to bring it to life,” says Dymphna Snijders Blok, Coordinator for AUAS and one of the event organisers.

The topic of drawing upon our shared vision, priorities and knowledge is one that will also be in the spotlight in November during our upcoming annual U!REKA Connects conference which has a fitting theme: Strengthening commonality of expertise.

The challenge now however, for Dymphna and the other colleagues who ran the brainstorm session, is to sort through and summarise all of the information from the brainstorm event. The plan is to share the findings with the rest of the alliance after the summer break.