For my graduation assignment I am working for Business Desk. Business desk is a part of the Academy for Leisure and is responsible for the connection between students, the university and the corresponding work field. In my view the role of Business Desk is a necessity within current society. The opening up of our world due to the internet and globalization results in new connections made every day, connections that are all intertwined and influencing each other or in other words, increase complexity. In this open world, where all information is accessible and where it is possible to find and connect to everyone, we need networkers, people who are able to find valuable connections. Valuable connections are becoming an asset in our current society.
During my search for a graduation assignment, I had a conversation with Youp Selen, a member of the management team of the Academy for Leisure. He explained to me, in a nutshell, how the educational system in the Netherlands works. At the base of any educational program in the Netherlands is a checklist of requirements to which this program should live up to. When a school or university is willing to create a new educational program, the first step is to prove the necessity of the program to the ministry of education. For example by explaining the economic or societal influence of the topic of the educational program. Furthermore, showcasing how students are becoming competent for their envisioned role in society. This process is very time consuming and is framing any form of learning by a big set of rules, regulations and requirements. Top down decision making that in the end will generalize and influence the study career of the individual.
Simultaneously, trends in society show the growing demand towards a more flexible structure of educating yourself. Lifelong learning and learning communities are broadly used terms. Challenges that influence the entire society such as climate change require cross sectoral ways of working. Education in essence is created to prepare someone for their future working career and besides societal challenges, this work field is also influenced by developments such as globalisation, robotization and technological developments. To be prepared for a career in which someone fulfils several roles in the working field people have to be well educated as well as continuously developing knowledge and skills. (Pleijers & Hartgers, 2016)
Adding it all up, the combination of rapid societal developments and growing challenges result in an increasingly complex society. A society in which we as people can only deal with this complexity by continuous education and innovation. The linear and traditional approach towards education as we know it is as much obsolete as it is dysfunctional. The current pandemic, as a result of globalization, requires lean, collaborative and flexible ways of learning and working together. Something that can never be contained into the educational system as we know it. The overvalued checking, setting rules to evaluate study programs are a bureaucratic liability towards a collaborative learning society.
Of course, education has to be created around our future image as the understanding of our future determines what knowledge and skills are considered to be important for the next generation. (Holfelder, 2019). However, earlier discussed developments and the increasing complexity of the modern-day world create a future that is becoming quite uncertain. How do you prepare someone for uncertainty? Luckily the relationship between education and the future works both ways. In December 1989 a film called Back to the Future predicted how we in 2015 would all make use of digital video phones, have drones flying in the air and use electronic devices for payments. (Money, 2015) How did they know this already 26 years in advance? Well, they didn’t. As futurist Monica Bielskyte states at SABC News (2018):
‘The ones predicting the future are also the ones inventing the future’.
The same goes for education. When we already at young age decide that we are all different. That the ones more theoretically blessed are ‘smarter’ and can go to ‘higher education’ secluding different personalities and labelling one as better than the other will carry this out through their entire working career. This is not the inclusive state of mind that we are aiming to achieve with SDG number 4. Even on an organizational level working together in a community form is becoming increasingly popular. According to HR community (2020), one out of three employers expect to focus more on community building in the near future. I believe, our educational system cannot stay behind in this development. Reaching an inclusive learning society requires a smooth transition between educational institutes and the ‘work field’ as the future can only be built together in a community form.
Of course, it is not up to me to change an entire system. Nevertheless, what I can do is look into the way things are organized and critically approach them from a value level. Diving into the essence of the way we structure our education in order to find out how change can be made in a positive way. I am aiming to find out what needs to change in our current system to create space for an alternative that aims towards co-creative and lifelong education.
My start for this search will be at Business Desk. A micro level challenge that has overlapping characteristics with bigger societal challenges. Finding out how a co-creative approach, meaning efficient collaboration and co-creation between students, work field and educational institutes, fit into the organizational structure of educational institutes or even goes beyond borders of different parts of society. To start with, it is important for Business Desk to be aware of their identity in order to generate clarity on their role within the BUas system. Starting with the ‘why’ instead of the ‘what’. Making sure that their way of working is in line with their values and by this making it easier for other stakeholders to connect or find connections towards Business Desk. Just maybe, this project will show the potential of new ways of learning which then can have a butterfly effect towards other parts of society. My abilities as a Social Innovator will help me in embracing the complexity of this challenge. And will make me more aware of the effect of society, organisations and people in the educational system. Things that will be discussed in my next Blogs….