Sustainability in a civic university: learning for & about Doughnut Economics with the help of an art installation!
Hasselt University is a civic university: it engages in and for society and it uses the knowledge to make the world smarter, more agile and better through education and research. In this context, the innovative educational project SUSCI is being developed.
SUSCI stands for SUStainability education in a CIvic University, but the acronym SUSCI does not coincidentally refer to the French word for “unease” (SOUCI). It reflects the concern of our students, and also of many other actors in our society, about climate change.
Within this innovative educational project, Hasselt University works together with 2 partners: Avansa Limburg (a social cultural organisation which stands for lifelong learning and strives for a sustainable, inclusive and democratic society) and Broederlijk Delen (a broad solidarity organisation that fights poverty and inequality, and cooperates with organisations in Africa, Latin America, Israel and Palestina to achieve these goals). UHasselt students from various faculties and programs acquire sustainability competences by reflecting together with socio-economic actors (e.g. citizens, businesses, pupils, NGOs, ...) on Kate’s Doughnut Economy.
In the first phase of our project, we’ve built an art installation based on the Doughnut Economy. The art installation was to be built by UHasselt students (Educational Master in Economics and Master students in Architecture), UHasselt lecturers and volunteer citizens (brought together by Avansa Limburg) who were interested in participating in the Doughnut project. The construction process would take place during a project week in the last week of March ’21 (right before the Easter break in Belgium).
In preparation for the project week, we organised a book club in the autumn of 2020, during which students (Educational Master Economics and Master of Architecture) were immersed in the literature of Doughnut Economics for the first time. During four consecutive (and interactive!) reading sessions, the content of the book was discussed together. We did this via role plays, the creation of posters, group discussions etc. Afterwards, the book club was also organised (online) for interested citizens: this time, the reading sessions were supervised by some students from the Educational Master Program in Economics.
Unfortunately, due to the sudden tightening of corona measures in Belgium at the end of March ’21, the project week which was initially planned and in which the UHasselt students, UHasselt lecturers and committed citizens would work together on the art installation, could not take place. Through an online brainstorming day, the three groups did join forces to generate ideas for the art installation, and afterwards a small group of UHasselt lecturers worked, together with Avansa Limburg, further on these ideas during the building process of the art installation.
The art installation reflects the Doughnut in a physical way, where people can walk in the Doughnut’s corridor, i.e. the safe and just space, and zoom in (literally) on interesting, inspiring, emotional quotes from Kate’s book. The installation was designed in a modular way so that it can safely 'travel' between different locations, and consists exclusively of regenerative materials and materials recovered from waste or other residual flows.
The second phase of this project focuses on the integration of sustainability in education. This is done by diverse initiatives.
During the first months of this academic year (2021-2022), our reading sessions were organised for the new batch of Master’s students of Architecture and students of the Educational Master in Economics. The reading sessions for the latter group were opened up to secondary school teachers, who could attend the various sessions if they were interested. Although the art installation is not 100% finished yet (due to the delays caused by the Corona pandemic), we did take a look at the installation during the reading sessions so that students (and teachers) could give their feedback.
On the other hand, the art installation will be exhibited from the spring of 2022 on the different campuses of Hasselt University and at other, external locations. Next to the art installation, educational material will be developed so that UHasselt students, UHasselt lecturers, teachers and pupils from secondary education, interested citizens as well as the business community can follow an interactive workshop on Doughnut Economics. During the workshops, our art installation will also be a central point. Via train-the-trainer sessions which Hasselt University will organise in the upcoming months, volunteers who registered via Avansa Limburg and Broederlijk Delen will be trained to supervise the workshops in the future, so that we can continue to spread the Doughnut message permanently!
The aim of the exhibition and the accompanying workshops is to (1) inform and reflect on Doughnut Economics as widely as possible, (2) integrate sustainability into the education at Hasselt University and (3) exchange ideas about sustainability (and more precisely about Doughnut Economics) between various socio-economic actors.
At Hasselt University, Avansa Limburg and Broederlijk Delen, we’re very proud of this innovative project full of doughnuts, and we hope to spread the Doughnut message throughout the whole of Flanders!
PS: Hasselt University will soon open its doors to host the Higher Education Summit: a physical conference on sustainability in higher education which we’re organising together with the Copernicus Alliance (the European Network on Higher Education for Sustainable Development). Our Doughnut art installation will surely be part of it and will be open to visit! Make sure to mark 6-8 September 2022 in your diary if you want to participate in a transformative, interactive and inspiring three-day summit full of Doughnuts! More info and registration will soon be available via www.higher-education-summit.com.