WINnovators for enhancing capacity building practices among HEI students

Kai Pata, Professor | Tallinn University

Higher Education Institutions (HEI) and business partners in the WINnovators project are redesigning the learning practices and tasks of students to be more collaborative, problem-based and situated to develop among the students the new skill sets and agency.

Capacity building in HEIs is a form of problem centred situated learning and action for the sake of the communities. It not only targets learners’ competencies and tangible problem solutions as educational outcomes, but rather it aims for transforming the participants and situations and developing the capacities as overarching activity systems connecting educational systems to the societal stakeholders.

What must be considered if we introduce capacity building focused learning practices?

Winnovators conceptualises joint capacity as a process of dynamically building and keeping alive action between universities and the communities, between learners and societal stakeholders, young rural women and surrounding business ecosystems and organisations.

We aim in WINnovators the blending of formal and informal learning practises as the means of increasing the joint capacity within educational systems and in the communities to be resilient to the forthcoming challenges in the world. Capacity building practices in HEIs enable to grow situated resilience in the social ecosystems and in persons. The educational capacity building practises target resilience and responsiveness goals within and across educational and informal learning institutions and the communities. Resilience is the collective responsive capacity of systems/agents to respond: anticipating and preparing for threats and disruptive events, absorbing impacts, recovering and adapting to persistent stress situations, and actuating for the different future states of the systems.

Capacity building as an educational form enables development of persons, their agency, competencies and collective capabilities. Developing a learner agency is one educational goal among WINnovators’ HEI partners. We envision that, when learning in capacity building situations where students will help young rural women in their business projects, learners can activate and grow their agency. Capacity building entails developing in people and their contextual systems the readiness to proactively solve the situations. This presumes personal agency. The individual notion of capacity is the capacity for self-regulation to respond to changes in the external environment (Varela, 1979). The sense of agency is the experience that I am the one who is causing or generating the action (Gallagher, 2000a, Gallagher, 2000b). Pacherie (2007, pp. 17–18) suggests that a sense of action initiation and a sense of control are “crucial” components in the sense of agency. Learners who are driven to many capacity building situations can become agents of change in their future job and communities.

From the educational facilitators point of view, maintaining such learning situations must be reconceptualized. For educational settings the locus of control is shared between universities and external partners, and dynamically evolving, the control does not hold and needs to be orchestrated across partners in problem solving situations.

Within challenging problem-solving endeavours between learners and societal actors and organisations the system level capacity as the flexible and mutually shaped system is formed. Capacity is a shared resource that can be consciously evoked responsively in unknown situations for complex problem solving. It may be preserved only as a temporally reactivated system that allows different stakeholders and resources to be orchestrated and moving towards a common goal and to follow shared values if needed.

Gallagher, S. (2000). Philosophical conceptions of the self: implications for cognitive science. Trends in Cognitive Science, 4 (1) (2000), pp. 14-21

Pacherie E. (2007). The sense of control and the sense of agency

Psyche, 13 (1)

VARELA, F.J. (1979) Principles of Biological Autonomy (Amsterdam, New Holland)

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