Brief report – 2nd Co-Creation Camp 2019

  • brief report on the PEOPLE project 2nd Co-Creation Camp, Joanne Mihelcic, Monash University, PEOPLE project, Erasmus+

Dr Joanne Mihelcic is a Research Fellow at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. She participated at our Co-Creation Camp in Ljubljana, Slovenia as an external observer and discussant. Below, read her brief report on the PEOPLE Project 2nd Co-Creation Camp, including valuable reflections on her experience and observations over the two-day event. 

Brief report on The People Project 2nd Co-Creation Camp 2019, Ljubljana, Slovenia

By Dr Joanne Mihelcic

Monash University, Australia

It was a pleasure to attend the second co-creation camp of the People Project on 3-4 July 2019 in Ljubljana, Slovenia as an external discussant and observer. This was my first encounter with the project and its participants. The project is impressive in its scale and reach; bringing together different national groups, expertise and industry partnerships. I believe there is opportunity to explore the engagement and outcomes as a framework or model for creating other educational experiences; it creates important and interesting opportunities to learn and practice consulting skills as well as those associated with research or design.

The event brought together the participating educators, students and industry professionals from four countries including: Slovenia, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Czechia. The two days were divided into distinct sections or activities which facilitated reporting back from each student group as well as workshopping to understand the more in-depth experiences of project partners involved and training by an industry partner on effectively presenting a case to industry. A public event was held on the second day which provided a forum for reporting to the broader community.

The student groups worked on a range of projects and employed diverse research methods for understanding people and their contexts; identifying the need to implement innovative ways to communicate and engage people in their communities.

The main theme for the student work was around people-centred development approaches to real-life challenges in the energy and sustainability industries. The activities and discussion over these two days of the co-creation camp highlighted a number of key learning areas which are integral to doing this work; as part of educational programs and in training students to work in industry.

The following are reflections on my experience and observations over the two day event. I believe it would be valuable to:

Develop reusable templates or resources

  • There was a lot of in-depth discussion and reflection on the lessons learned during the two day co-creation camp. With some guidance or support it may be feasible to develop resources which inform future teaching and similar activities.
  • Either as part of the project or as a subsequent piece of work it would be useful to develop, in collaboration with partners, some documented resources which support the setting up of partnerships and placements and importantly help manage expectations between entities.

Elaborate on concepts of stakeholder engagement: researching and working with people in communities

  • Much of the work presented in the two day camp involved understanding the needs of people and communities in quite nuanced ways.
  • It was evident from student presentations that the students were working and practicing as both researchers, consultants and designers. The activities and fieldwork undertaken by students in community settings are in themselves ‘interventions’.
  • It would be useful to consider the social impact of these interventions.
  • There is additional opportunity within the context of this type of project to include learning about the needs of business or industry as well as those of the clients they work with. It would be interesting to see if the educators/students could do interviews/observations with the industry partners to understand their perspectives and drivers.

Develop a framework or model for partnering with industry

  • The People Project creates an interesting framework for translating academic theory into new community or industry contexts and into practice. The framework is in line with the concept of a ‘living lab’.[1] It would be interesting to see how this work can be published and promoted in diverse forums – both educational and industry.
  • Useful documentation could include the development of templates to assist future similar projects:
  • A business case
    • This could help educators explain the benefit to industry and also communicate with industry the benefit of participating.
  • The student work could be written up as cases and examples of the different types of work conducted.

Create a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)

  • Engaging with participants over the two days highlighted for me how educators as well as students may have limited experience in industry – in terms of industry operational practices and processes.
  • Educators expressed some of the difficulties they experienced in collaborating with some industry partners and setting expectations of industry partner.
  • While the organisational entities, that is the university and industry partners, may have a memorandum of understanding which is used in establishing these types of partnership, it might be useful to have an MoU which is used a tool for making explicit exactly what each student research group could expect from the partnerships and importantly accountability or responsibilities.

Engage with other disciplines/expertise

  • Educators in the program are engaging in discussion about what they have learned through this type of partnership with industry. Is it possible to include some support or training for both supervising staff and especially students to introduce them to basic business skills/documentation? During the camp some educators spoke about how they did not have the skills/experience in business. Is it possible to bring in ‘advisors’ from schools/faculties of business to help?
  • Students were needing to draw on a range of disciplinary expertise in conducting research. Is it possible to extend the project to other disciplines which may experience some of the same challenges in translating their skills to industry?