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CIVIS Open Labs: a tool for invigorating civic engagement in public universities


Open Labs are spaces where collaborative projects can take place thanks to the wide thematic scope and the variety of stakeholders involved. In CIVIS, the Open Labs help to deploy actions between academics and citizens with the participation of local administrations and civil organizations. They are local tools that connect education, research, and innovation with local issues through the design of specific activities that require the involvement of citizens. This self-adaptation mechanism brings universities closer to society and contributes to the co-creation of solutions with the surrounding ecosystem. 

CIVIS Open Labs have grown under this scheme, incubating new projects during the past two years across the territories that surround the universities that originally conformed CIVIS. The result has been the creation of a solid network of 8 Open Labs that address societal challenges at the local level. So far, they have counted on the participation of more than 200 stakeholders. These stakeholders are classified according to the pillars of the Quadruple helix to define opportunities and maintain ongoing strategic and cooperative engagement with regional governments and municipalities in the deployment of the Smart Specialization Strategies. The broad geographical distribution makes the network very attractive for the development of common initiatives that foster European identity and raise awareness on the problems of other territories among partners.

About 30 projects will be running in the network by the end of 2021 in different areas of action linked to the five societal challenges that CIVIS is meant to address that promote growth sustainability and inclusiveness through multidisciplinary solutions. New partners are also working for their integration in the network by adapting their own preexisting structures.

Service Learning training activities have been also included in many Open Lab projects. A great deal of interest has arisen among academics and students towards this form of pedagogy that is seen as an excellent method to enhance societal impact through the academic studies. Large number of students are already benefiting from this learning-by-doing approach inside the projects.

Finally, the network is currently working in the preparation of a pilot transnational initiative that aims to seek solutions to European issues through joint local action in the different territories. The purpose of this initiative is to identify barriers for the integration of migrants and refugees and benchmark the common practices of our universities and stakeholders and in order to leverage actions that contribute to break those obstacles. Actions will focus in the prevention of extremism, racism or hate speech against those groups, fostering the participation of civil organizations and the mutual understanding. In the long term, the project aims at collaborating with NGOs and policy makers for the establishment of innovative mechanisms and tools in order to find solutions to prevent cultural clashes. 

To know more about CIVIS Open Labs, please visit https://civis.eu/en/activities/civis-openlab

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