Fostering collaboration and partnerships
Virtual learning and Open Educational Resources (OERs) were central to meeting the extraordinary demand for higher education in fragile contexts. InZone was therefore encouraged to bring all of the known actors in higher education in emergencies together to generate greater insight into operating in emergencies across the globe. At this point, the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS) awarded a grant to InZone for the purpose of mapping the domain of Higher Education in Emergencies and paths towards its optimal development to benefit refugees. Subsequently in June 2015, given the collective know-how of the various actors, a Summer School was organized under the aegis of the University of Geneva and in collaboration with UNHCR. This gathered individuals operating in fragile contexts across the globe to explore more effective ways of meeting education needs in humanitarian contexts.
Yet again, and together with UNHCR Education/Innovation, InZone was tasked with organizing the first Connected Learning Consortium Workshop. Its objective was to explore innovative ways of meeting the needs of refugee learners by utilizing new learning technologies and through partnerships between higher education providers.
Throughout InZone’s endeavours, several values and principles have remained central: the preservation of the language and culture of the country or region in conflict; the promotion of 21st century skills whose application is conducive to conflict resolution and the reconstruction of societies; the belief that higher education and universities are central to “building back better” as learners are empowered to be the agents of change; that this progression should not be driven by the North or the West, but should take place in collaboration with the South and East.
Accordingly, as it embraces a daunting future, InZone has a duty to remain in the field, to develop Higher Education Spaces in humanitarian settings and to act as a scientific observer. In this way, it takes on the role of a new species of humanitarian actor. It is the cherished hope that Higher Education Spaces can become islands of stability in a sea of conflict and uncertainty; that they can be places from which refugees may integrate into the fabric of the host country or, we dare to believe, from which they may return to their home countries, to rebuild their academic and economic infrastructure, to generate livelihoods and shape the more secure societies of the future.