On a mission to a world where no one is left behind
…we invite you all in! The 3IN Alliance applies its experience, know-how and other resources to accelerating inclusion, integration and involvement in novel practices and programmes within the European Education Area. We aim to add value for our students, staff and stakeholders through flexible learning opportunities, diverse modes of mobility, access to the recent knowledge, and involvement in the learning and knowledge creation processes.
The European Universities Initiative (EUI) as an accelerator
European Universities are transnational alliances that will become the universities of the future, promoting European values and identity, and revolutionizing the quality and competitiveness of European higher education. In order to achieve this major step forward, the European Commission is testing different cooperation models for European Universities, with two calls for proposals under the Erasmus+ programme. Today, the EUI is one of the flagship initiatives within the EU’s ambitions to build a European Education Area. As a result of the first call, out of 54 applications received, 17 European Universities involving 114 higher education institutions from 24 Member States were selected. (https://ec.europa.eu/education/education-in-the-eu/european-education-area/european-universities-initiative_en)
Our first proposal submitted in 2019 was ranked good—but not good enough. Were we disappointed? Yes. Were we surprised? Well… no. Did we give up? No, we did not! High scores and supportive feedback boosted our motivation to become a unique European University, intensifying our collaboration and deepening our insight into how to excel in our next application.
The 3IN Alliance as a process, not a project
The EUI encouraged us to engage in a significantly different development process than any other education, research, development and innovation (RDI) or mobility project before. We were challenged to transform our strategies, policies, perspective, and focus away from a single project towards a long-term process involving all levels of our institutions. Consequently, we were required to clearly demonstrate how to transform our universities from well-connected, yet separate institutions into an innovative learning and knowledge-creating ecosystem.
During the past 18 months, nearly 80 people from our institutions have built connections and commitments, planned joint activities, exchanged views and experience, and contributed to the EUI proposal. An estimated 300 people have participated in some way or another: sharing ideas and best practices, writing and planning joint RDI proposals, giving feedback, and participating in the 3IN dialogue. We have included individuals, made plans to integrate our institutions’ processes, and involved local and regional communities into our step-by-step strategic and operational plans.
How to establish a European University
Today, after just submitting our EUI proposal—European University of Inclusion, Integration, and Involvement: Transforming Challenges into Resources (ALLIN)—our RDI project preparation team, including institutional coordinators of the partners, as well as our key experts and directors across Europe, had mixed feelings of relief, happiness, satisfaction, distress, and even exhaustion. Most importantly, I am pretty sure, deep inside, we all felt a real collective sense of pride about our collaborative effort so far.
It is too early to summarize the outcomes of this particular learning journey, but the least I can say is that the following take-aways are worth exploring and sharing for any readers planning to establish a brand-new University alliance in the future.
A do-it-yourself European University: Top 3IN tips
- Commitment. Building up a feasible proposal for a new European University is not merely a project—it is a strategic process. Ensure that the highest decision-making organs of the key institutions are committed to a shared vision and mission. Embed and express this commitment in all levels of your institutions. Commitment is only achieved through short-term and long-term operations and activities—be prepared, and plan your objectives and actions accordingly.
- Communication. Cross-national, cross-institutional, cross-disciplinary and cross-sectoral communication is… well, not too easy! In our case, the extensive inclusion of various actors with diverse perspectives about our vision, mission and goals was crucial in improving our strategic and operational plans. At the same time, it also increased and actualized the risks of severe conflicts, communication gaps and feelings of not being heard, or of being misunderstood or excluded. Be aware that the question of communication is genuinely a question of leading, facilitating and supporting ongoing constructive dialogue, where no one is left out, but, instead, all are brought in. Do make a feasible plan for communication and conflict resolution.
- Collaboration. Individual and institutional capacity to collaborate in a complex ecosystem is one of the key superpowers in facilitating and supporting future way of learning and working. Collaboration in a complex network or ecosystem is best enabled through value-based leadership, institutional and individual commitment and dialogic communication—and most severely obstructed trough distrust or lack of strategic or operational leadership. In case of any confusion and conflict occurring in collaboration, go back to tip1. Commitment and tip 2. Communication.
In our exiting 3IN journey, we invite you to share your thoughts on this question: What does “A world, where no one is left behind” mean? Do join in, and challenge us to engage with different points of view!
Elina Ylikoski, Director of Innovations, Ph.D.(Econ.), Diaconia University of Applied Sciences. Monday morning enthusiast and positive chaos catalyst. Interest in boosting learning and magic dust. Keeps questioning why, but more often why not. Ylikoski leads Diak’s Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) Unit, which is responsible for coordinating the 3IN Alliance collaboration, as well as the planning and execution of Diak’s European University Initiative proposal. She reports directly to Tapio Kujala, President of Diak, and Chair of the 3IN Alliance Board of Presidents.