Open Meetings: part two

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This year, the TU Delft works on a strategic framework for the 2018-2024 period. While working on this framework we try to establish a shared sense of direction for the TU Delft. After completion, the framework will function as a sort of compass for all decision-making bodies within our university.

In order to reach this shared vision, we asked a large group of stakeholders for their advice. Early on in the process we did so in the form of twelve internal advisory groups, each proposing priorities for the university on specific themes, then by discussing the first draft with anyone willing to share their thoughts and ideas during nine ‘Open Meetings’.

9 Open Meetings on 6 strategic themes
A report on the first four Open Meetings, where we discussed the themes Research, Societal Impact and Students & Education (x2), can be found here. Now, all Open Meetings have taken place; you can find a short report on the last five meetings – on the themes People & Community (x2), Support Services (x2) and Campus & Estates - below.

Some ideas opted in the meetings

How to challenge scientists, support staff and students and enable them to get the best out of themselves; that is in a nutshell what we discussed during those five Open Meetings. The discussions resulted in a lot of recommendations.

Excellence ≠ one size fits all

How do you stimulate employees to get the best out of themselves? The Open Meeting participants answered this question clear and unambiguous: let them excel in their own strength. Excellence is never ‘one size fits all’; performance reviews should be adapted to individual qualities and personal development. For students we should create a challenging environment too. For example with more personal attention of inspiring teachers, by offering MOOCs of the best universities, or by adopting dreamteams as an educational method. The idea of ‘flexibility’ got a lot of support as well. By flexible or modular courses, or some form of ‘flex-studying’, participants thought of ways to enable students to put their studies temporally – or partly – on hold, free of charge, to focus on things that now often fall through: going abroad, doing an internship or focus on extracurricular activities.

Excellent support for everyone

For all employees and students that want to get the best out of themselves and do their job as well as possible, excellent support is essential. According to the participants in the Open Meetings on the theme Support Services, this support should be first and foremost simple for the user: a ‘one stop shop’ or ‘plug&play’. Avoid ‘van kastje naar de muur’: for this last expression we could not find a good translation during the meeting, but all English-speaking participants seemed to understand what was meant. High on the list of priorities is more user-friendly software, less platforms and systems, and better accessible data. For students the idea of a ‘digi-mom’ that can take them digitally by the hand, was raised. This led to a vivid discussion: should students be taken by the hand more often, or do we want a less ‘scholastic’ support? The participants could not agree on the best approach.

The participants did agree that the realisation of a well-functioning ‘one stop shop’ requires that processes are seen as chains, that sometimes transcend the different services. For such a chain-approach it is important that the different support services are attuned to one another. The participant had plenty of ideas how to realise this. They thought of (short) mutual exchanges between the central support and the faculty support services or between the different support services – for instance between HR and Communications. Likewise, the possibility to acquire a new position within a different organisational unit after a couple of years, was appreciated.

A blue heart for life
The participants in the Open Meetings saw many opportunities for a strong and lasting alumni involvement; after all, the blue heart for the TU Delft is something that continues beating. With regard to the involvement, the necessity of mutuality or reciprocity was stressed by all attendants. Alumni have much to offer to the TU Delft: as (guest) teachers, as student coaches, as
advisors, or industrial partners in a research project. The other way around, alumni can take advantage of a strong network, of lifelong learning and of access to knowledge that is developed within TU Delft. The suggestion to strengthen the community feeling with a TU Delft tattoo will probably not be incorporated in the final strategic framework but we won’t stop anyone!

The beating heart of the campus
The aforementioned blue heart made its return in the Open Meeting on the Campus. Be it in the shape of a central square, hub, village centre, meeting point or regulars table; according to the participants the realisation of a ‘beating heart’ should be pivotal in the development of the campus. The exact shape or form of this heart led to lively discussions, perhaps even the liveliest of all meetings. Ideas varied from pop-up research and education to transparent (glass?) research and education facilities that could be observed real life and real time by the people on the central square terraces. The idea to build an ‘open innovation plaza’ a permanent space for so called Friday Afternoon Experiments of students, researchers and everyone else, was met with a lot of enthusiasm. A recommendation in line with this was the idea to design flexible facilities for multiple purposes to stimulate not only efficient use of space but also accidental encounters. Despite the sometimes divergent ideas, one thing was not in question: all participants agreed that is essential that in the beating heart of the campus good coffee is served.

Relation with the city
The relation with the city Delft was a topic of discussion in multiple Open Meetings. Again, as with alumni, the importance of reciprocity was emphasised here. For Delft inhabitants, the campus could be a place to visit cool events as drone races or e-sports, or work on their own projects as ‘weekend engineers’. The other way around, researchers and students could move more often from the campus to the city and use the city as a ‘Living Lab’. Delft could present itself as a Smart City: a city where spin-offs of TU Delft science are part and parcel. In doing so, the campus and city together can become a lively and vibrant breeding ground for technology, innovation, science, experiment and special encounters.

What now
With the recommendations formulated in the Open Meetings, the draft strategy will be further refined. The result will then be submitted to the Employee Council and the Supervisory Board. The final version of the Strategic Framework 2018-2024 is expected to be formally decided upon this autumn. As soon as possible thereafter, the document will be available on this website.

When the Strategic Framework is formally decided upon, the real work starts: the implementation. Then we will together give shape to the direction anchored in the framework. To begin with, the deans and directors will be asked what the framework comprises for them: how can their faculty or service contribute to develop and concretise the objectives? This will probably start at the end of this year.