How can we get today’s youth to speak up? This is the practical starting point for the three projects in the new interdisciplinary master’s course “UiA Co-creation – OpenLab”. The students will solve real challenges from external actors.
Lillesand municipality, Kristiansand municipality and the Department for children and youth’s mental health at the Hospital of Southern Norway (ABUP) are working on getting youths involved, as well as getting to know and understand their viewpoints. Lillesand wants the youths’ voices to be more present in its democratic processes, Kristiansand wants Samsen, its cultural centre for youth, to be relevant for an evolving youth environment, and ABUP wants to develop a channel for communication that youth will feel comfortable using.
Three challenges where no simple solutions exist, three issues where no clear answers are set, three organisations that all ask for help from UiA’s new master’s course in co-creation.
“We are bureaucrats, so we hope that the students can bring us out of our traditional way of thinking. It is exciting to meet new students from different backgrounds and academic fields,” Maj-Kristin Nygård, public health adviser from Lillesand municipality, said.
This week marked the start for “UiA Co-creation – OpenLab”, a 10 ECTS credits interdisciplinary elective master’s course available to master’s students. The students come from innovation and knowledge development, music management, industrial economics, social communication, political science and public health.
“The interdisciplinary factor is very exciting. This is different from my previous studies. Here, we have become more aware of using dialogue,” Ida Marie Norin, political science and management master’s student, said.
She mentions that the dialogue format is also used a lot in the lecture part of the course.
“It encourages me to read more on my own,” she said.
Lillesand municipality have already conducted three surveys in order to know more about how its youths think. They have re-established a youth council, and the political environment is greatly determined to listen to what the youths have to say.
After a presentation, three representatives from the municipality sit together with four students and two supervisors. During the next weeks, these seven people will dive deeply into the subject matter.
“First of all, the students must understand the area they will be working on. That is why they must spend time learning the context and mapping the target group’s needs,” Romulo Pinheiro, responsible for the course and professor at the Department of Political Science and Management at the Faculty of Social Sciences, said.
“No one knows the answer in advance. That is why we have to find the answer by co-creating it,” James Karlsen, who is responsible for the course along with Pinheiro and professor at the Department of Working Life and Innovation at the School of Business and Law at UiA, said.
“It is also very important that the regional partners set aside a sufficient amount of time for working together with the students. This is not a consulting job where the students provide answers to specific questions but a process where you work closely together,” Pinheiro said.
The new master’s course has been developed as a part of UiA’s strategy in community involvement and innovation. The idea behind the course is that students from different fields and disciplines come together to find new angles and test new solutions to concrete and complex challenges and work together with external actors in the region.
There are 14 students in the course in its debut year, and they come from different master’s programmes and faculties. The oldest student is 57 years old, and the youngest has just passed 20. The supervisors also come from different faculties.
“We are now working with method, dialogue and contemplation. The first impression was very good, even though the format is a bit unusual for many of the students,” Pinheiro says.
The final seminar for the master’s course is 6 December. There, the students will present the process and the solutions to the regional partners.
The currents issues that the groups will work on: