“Fanny Jonsson works at the Division for Internationalisation at Uppsala University in Sweden and is the coordinator of this ambitious two-year capacity-building project funded by the EU and including partners from universities in Italy, Brazil and Honduras.”
She is passionate about building something that adds value for all partners. Fanny says a lot of time was spent analysing the needs of all the partners, how to get teachers and students working together to address the issue of Education for Sustainable Development, ESD, which comes under the United Nations list of SDGs or Sustainable Development Goals.
Her background and experience means she is able to make the most out of international collaborations and capacity building projects such as VAMOS.
“I understand how important it is to make this capacity-building project meaningful for all sides. This is a ‘learning-by-doing’ process. We need to have a common goal due to the complexity of wicked problems and we will use this time to create building blocks we hope we will be able to expand on in the future. This is just the start.”
Fanny knows that there is no one-size-fits-all type of solution to these problems and her focus is the process rather than reaching an end goal. She insists on the collaboration and the learning elements of the project and the role of ‘Virtual Exchange’ or VE being central to this.
“Through this process, I am hoping we can create more understanding and awareness around the concept of VE and how it can make the world a little smaller and bring people together who are geographically separated.”
The idea is not to replace those heart-warming dinners and meetings that so help groups of people to bond with a view to working together. But rather to use technology and the digital world in a positive and long-lasting way, to build bridges and relationships that would otherwise not have been possible.
“So far everything has been digital. We have never met the other partners from Italy, Brazil or Honduras. But I do hope that at some point in the next year we will be able to do that and perhaps enjoy a typical Brazilian or Honduran dish properly, at a table, all together in a physical space.”
Creating the project during the pandemic has been a challenge, admits Fanny. “It has been a trying year to start a new project, but everybody has been up for the challenge and worked towards finding solutions”. “Internationalisation-at-home and ESD are at the core of many institutions, so we need to harness the power of VE and make it work for us in the best way possible.”
UNICollaboration with its expertise in training in VE became a natural partner within VAMOS. And the whole ‘learning-from-each-other’ approach is integral to VE especially when the lingua franca is English and most partners speak it as a second or third language.
“It means we have to listen more, we need to be agile and open-minded and be prepared to ask for help from each other. Ultimately we hope to be able to build a course on sustainability that has VE at its core and that can be expanded and adopted by other universities in the future so we can be flexible in how we deal with sustainability issues both now and beyond.”