In May the partners of ENCORE project had the possibility to meet in Graz, Austria and Alicante, Spain for the third and fourth trainings of the project. The project aims at establishing entrepreneurship knowledge centres at six universities in Bhutan, Lao, and Nepal.
The project started in January 2021 and after working for more than a year online, face-to-face trainings were for the participants a huge relief. Erasmus+ Capacity Building projects also aim to enhance new networks and promote intercultural understanding. These aims won’t be fulfilled online.
Thus, it is interesting to reflect upon the experiences of finally being able to meet in person with the key people involved in the project.
Networks are better created face-to-face
In general, the Erasmus+ related trainings should take place in the target countries. The COVID-19 lock-ins and requirements of quarantines in the target countries made us implement the 3rd and 4th trainings in Europe.
The universities hosting the trainings were happy to finally meet the project teams face-to-face. It was noted that online can be a supplement to some activities, but networking is an important part of international projects. Relationships between people develop during informal discussions and in face-to-face interaction.
Most of the trainers in the ENCORE project also work as teachers at their home universities and many admitted that they are suffering from online fatigue. Lisa Mahajan, one of the trainers from Fachhochschule Joanneum, confirmed the overall feeling of being back face-to-face saying that it is just so nice to meet everyone in person.
Better sharing of information
It was interesting to learn that lecturers at universities in Bhutan and Austria have shared with us the same challenges of inactive students during online classes. Many lecturers at the universities in the target countries were interested in the ways we at Haaga-Helia are implementing inquiry learning. This even though the key focus of the project is on entrepreneurship training and knowledge centres.
Furthermore, for the European partners the face-to-face project meetings and trainings were extremely important in building trust. In the next phase of the project, the partners in the target countries Lao, Nepal and Bhutan will be coached to get their entrepreneurship knowledge centres running successfully. Due to long, mostly informal, discussions about the sociocultural contexts universities are facing in the different countries, the coaching will be more efficient.
Deeper experiences and personal growth
The trainings were wrapped up by a Fish bowl workshop. The participants from the target countries were happy to get the experience to visit Europe and to learn more about entrepreneurship and how it can be supported. Learning about design thinking and new ways of funding businesses were also highly appreciated.
One of the participants summarised his own experienced with 3 C’s
- culture and cultural chock,
The third one is actually very important, especially when it comes to countries where academic staff has rather limited international exposure. Erasmus+ projects offer possibilities for personal growth and gaining confidence to work in an international network.
Based on the experiences from the trainings we discussed, we can only pray that COVID situation calms down both in Asia and Europe. If there are no students at campuses, there are no possibilities for trainings and coaching at the Entrepreneurship Knowledge Centres.
As the project funds the centres, each Asian university should try to proceed with the project according to plans. The technology purchased with the project funding should be in use at least 12 months during the project and if not, the project must be prolonged.
Naturally, we also look forward to the possibility to visit the entrepreneurship centres in real life and to see how they work at supporting the regional entrepreneurial ecosystems.