Fostering Inclusion and Diversity Through Erasmus+ Cooperation Partnerships

Experiences Higher education Erasmus+ Erasmus+ for higher education Internationalisation Education development
Åbo Akademi University successfully coordinated two Erasmus+ Cooperation Partnership projects, "Designing and Supporting Inclusive Practices in Higher Education" (InclusiveHE) and "Inclusion Through Mediation” (IncludeME). Aligned with the Erasmus+ Programme’s priority of promoting inclusion and diversity, both projects produced impactful outcomes during their two-year duration, spanning from 2020 to 2022.
 Representatives of the IncludeME project at a meeting in Spain.
IncludeME Transnational Project Meeting in Barcelona, Spain. From left: Catherine Neill, Kirsten Sonne, Cati Jerez, Yalcin Kuzoren, Carme Royo, Emmanuel Acquah, and Sanja Ivandić.

Emmanuel Acquah, an associate professor in Minority Research at the Faculty of Education and Welfare Studies at Åbo Akademi University, served as the coordinator for both projects. He highlights the deliberate effort made to include partners from various locations and areas of expertise, ensuring a rich blend of cultures and perspectives when addressing common challenges.

"We purposefully selected partners from different regions, spanning from the South to the East and West. If you bring in partners from various regions and contexts, then you bring in different cultures and different ways of thinking about the same question. The fundamental value of inclusion was at the core of our partner selection process. The more diverse the population in your work, the better the outcomes. We saw this in our own Cooperation Partnerships projects”, says Emmanuel.

Anette Bengs, a research project researcher at Experience Lab in the Faculty of Education and Welfare Studies at Åbo Akademi University, served as another coordinator of both projects. She also emphasises the importance of the diverse composition of project partners, especially in terms of organisation types, in achieving comprehensive project outcomes: “I found the collaboration with NGOs and other organisations abroad very valuable. As our project partners, especially in the IncludeMe project, were very close to experts in the field as well as our target groups, they served as a great resource in the process of refining and implementing the projects,” says Anette.

Toolkit, Courses and Guide as Results

As a result of the InclusiveHE project, the Higher Education Toolkit was developed, which can aid administrators and policymakers in devising inclusive policies in the higher education sector. The project also produced valuable learning resources, such as the Inclusive Higher Education Training Course and a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), both of which provide practical strategies and courses for improving inclusion in higher education institutions.

Responding to the pressing need for greater social integration amidst the rising political, religious, and economic tensions augmenting the refugee crisis and multi-ethnic communities, the IncludeME project utilized meditation as a tool to enable students, activists, and migrants to act as peer-to-peer mediators in their communities and beyond. A notable outcome of the project is the IncludeMe Good Practice Guide, which details effective evidence-based mediation practices, designed to educate and empower educators, community workers, volunteers, and refugees. This guide is available in Swedish, English, and Turkish.

According to the project coordinators, Erasmus+ Cooperation Partnerships projects allow higher education institutions to not only broaden their networks through meaningful partnerships with various organisations but also to make a direct social impact with concrete and practical outcomes: “These projects had an immediate impact on the target groups because we were tasked with generating tangible outputs that are immediately applicable and useful. Unlike traditional research done at higher education institutions, where the focus is on publishing articles that may go unnoticed, the Erasmus projects involve taking immediate action and producing outcomes that drive meaningful change,” says Emmanuel.

Writer: Sion Yang