Achieving more together: BFH Transformation

21.06.2023 BFH Transformation is a collaborative project with an interdisciplinary approach. In this interview, Simone Gäumann and Urs Heimberg reveal how their project is generating outward momentum and creating a sense of community within.

What exactly is BFH Transformation?

Simone: BFH Transformation is an interdisciplinary project that deals with societal challenges from different perspectives. It seeks to bring together these different perspectives and in doing so, present new approaches. In this new format, students, researchers and lecturers work closely together with local partners in the Bern region to explore current social issues.

What are we talking about here?

Simone: We’re talking about the medium and long-term development of our living spaces – analysing societal changes from engineering, social and artistic perspectives, finding approaches and launching interventions. Development processes that affect the population and relate to the use of space. Space brings disciplines together.

Urs: For a long time, the Bern region has been planned from the inside, i.e. from Bern outwards. We’re doing the exact opposite with Ostermundigen – planning from the edges inwards in order to create momentum for the city region. We are opening new perspectives by taking unconventional approaches. The result is not turnkey solutions, but valuable momentum.

How was the project received by the public?

Urs: The topic we had chosen, ‘Momentum from the edges’, proved to be a stroke of luck in the context of the potential merging of Bern and Ostermundigen. We ran a lot of tours for often quite diverse groups, and also for professional associations, the Bern neu gründen association and for a 30-person delegation from the city’s parliament. The opening was even attended by the mayors of Ostermundigen and Bern.

‘We created an atmosphere of togetherness.’

How have politicians responded to the ideas in their own communities?

Urs: Through BFH Transformation, the Bern councillors have learned about new aspects of the neighbouring community in Ostermundigen of which they previously had little knowledge. They stood looking at the drone footage for quite a while! The video literally gave them new perspectives of Ostermundigen.

How was the project received within BFH?

Urs/Simone: The feedback we received about the exhibition at Kornhaus was extremely positive. What was particularly appreciated was that we managed to create a feeling of togetherness across the three schools involved in the project. The importance of the project is also highlighted by the fact that it is in line with BFH’s sustainability focus.

What are the challenges of an interdisciplinary project like BFH Transformation?

Simone: In the pilot year, we spent a lot of time setting up the interdisciplinary cooperation. As schools, we function very differently and sometimes manage our respective teaching and research activities in very different ways. The biggest challenge of the project was bridging the gaps between these different structures.

Urs: That’s right. We also lacked experience with transdisciplinary teaching, which is why we sought to facilitate informal dialogue between the schools and initially put in place platforms for exchange.

‘We can achieve so much more by working together.’

What is meant by transdisciplinary teaching?

Simone: Interdisciplinary projects involve working together across disciplines, where all participants nevertheless keep their own perspective. With transdisciplinary teaching, we go one step further and try to work on a particular topic from a shared perspective.

Urs: To achieve this, you need to ask overarching questions geared towards transdisciplinarity. The exhibition and weekend of events for BFH Transformation bring together different disciplinary perspectives in one place. In so doing, they open up a different dimension from that offered by an exhibition for a single school. The next step is to find a common transdisciplinary task and integrate it into the daily lives of students with new forms of cooperation.

How do you go about setting up a transdisciplinary cooperation?

Simone: It’s not enough to simply bring students together. We also need to look at how to work together, and what teaching resources are needed. Modules such as BFH diagonal are good examples of how to encourage students to enrich their studies by taking courses from other disciplines. But we’re just getting started.

Urs: Bringing disciplines and schools together takes time. We need to do things step by step. You need a great deal of patience – participative processes are not something that can be prescribed.

Why go to all this effort?

Urs: That’s simple – because it’s incredibly interesting. We can achieve so much more by working together.

Simone: And it’s a work in progress. As an open-ended process, BFH Transformation is a learning experience for BFH. We obviously hope that we’ll soon be able to share this experience with other schools.

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