15 July 2019 • HNTB
Educating students to be headstrong global citizens
Want to make a difference in the world? Want to tackle problems and challenges from an interdisciplinary perspective? Titus van der Spek is one of the lecturers who teaches at The Hague Summer School. This is an international platform where students can learn how to improve the world in their own way. “We want to make students aware of who they are and what they want to contribute to sustainable development throughout the world.”
What do you want to do?
“The Hague Summer School is themed around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – the global objectives for sustainable development. We have created a variety of modules on this, including Sustainable Entrepreneurial Thinking. My colleague Ernst van Weperen focuses on an integrated approach to sustainability and how this applies to companies. Gijs Vermeulen specialises in measuring carbon footprints. I teach social entrepreneurship and innovation management with a strong emphasis on the ethical side of entrepreneurship. We have tried to bring together these three concepts, where the prime focus is on raising awareness. We want students to discover their skills and qualities. How can they deal with the world’s problems in their own way? Who are you? What do you want to do?
Diary and meditation
“To help students become aware of who they are and what they want to do, they have to keep a diary of their own carbon footprint. This includes things such as how frequently they take a shower, how much meat they eat and which forms of transport they use. Measuring and setting targets allows the students to discover what is important for them. In addition, they meditate every day. This helps to raise their awareness and the students can use this later in the course to work on innovative activities or position themselves within our world to do something good.”
“In addition to sustainability and measuring the carbon footprint, there is also entrepreneurship itself. We teach the students a method of design thinking and problem-solving skills. We do this over three days. On day 1, the students choose a problem to analyse. This could be plastic in canals in The Hague, for instance. On day 2, the students come up with solutions for a specific aspect of the problem. Plastic in canals is not in itself the problem. The problem is that there are insufficient rubbish bags or that people are unaware of the use of plastic. The students then try to find a financially sustainable solution for that particular aspect of the problem. On day 3, they can try out their idea and pitch it.
“Our students meet a lot of external people in a short period. For instance, we take them to an incubator in Leiden, an organisation that is full of professional enterprises. The students elaborate their idea there, and explain it to the real entrepreneurs in the building. They need to ask whether it is something they can improve, and if so, how. The students also go to the beach to collect plastic waste and devise solutions for the problem during a workshop in a beach pavilion.”
“The Hague Summer School is an international platform. Students come here from all corners of the world. The lecturers also come from many different places. Furthermore, the subjects that we deal with are not local. Most students work on a problem that exists in their country, village or city. This creates an interesting dynamic. For instance, a student from China hears how students in America tackle a problem with plastic. This enables them to learn how to devise solutions to problems in other cultures and within different systems, which creates a new way of thinking. It is rather global.”