As a consortium of Higher Education Institutes (HEI) in urban areas we are increasingly aware that we, students, teaching & research staff, have a role in contributing to develop a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient economy and society in our cities.
We build on experience since 2007 with an international intercity cooperation programme for students: International Virtual Consulting Firm (IVCF) related to city marketing questions from companies & municipal departments.
In current times the needs of cities and HEIs have changed. Cities struggle to reclaim a balance between the popular central area and unpopular peripheral areas. The narrative of cities needs to be enlarged. Urban peripheral areas are new centres of interest. HEIs need to prepare students to be critical thinkers in the age of information and for jobs which have not yet been defined. The Researching the City: Mapping Imaginaries (IMAGE) method combines these needs. A new approach uses mapping tools to bring attention to the peripheral, often neglected, areas of our cities and maps them as enclaves of dynamism and creativity.
With this method students are trained to actively search for information, stimulating critical thinking. Students work with city partners such as city councils, inhabitants, citizens initiatives and local cultural organisations and companies on real life societal challenges. In interdisciplinary and intercultural settings they share their research findings with colleague students abroad, in this way enhancing the solutions to include knowledge and experience from other cities. This cooperation as partners is the core of this method.
City partners are involved as associate partners, cooperating in the assignment design with specific examples, expertise and network and contributing to teaching material and training of teaching staff. Data generated by the project can be used by them in their policy plans and implementation of solutions.
We completed this 2.5 year project with a set of tools which are 6 socalled Intellectual Outputs in the Erasmus+ vocabulary together form the IMAGE teaching & research method.
We used the experience and expertise of each of the consortium partners to produce these tools and the results of this project. During three testing pilot rounds, each corresponding to a semester, students and teaching staff worked with the IMAGE method. The teaching staff designed a prototype, tested, evaluated and then revised the prototype with all stakeholders; students, teaching staff andcity partners.
It was truly a joined effort. In total 315 students participated in the three pilots, over 20 lecturers and 10 city partners.
All partners felt the joint responsibility for the results of the project.
Two training events prepared the teaching staff for the development and running of the pilots.
Many online and even live meetings, after Covid-19 restrictions were somewhat lifted, led to the building of a lasting team , and contributed to the common understanding of the project, the tasks, the responsibilities and the lines of communication.
We presented the results and connected with local population of Amsterdam Zuidoost during a final live Summit with a View: Researching the City Mapping Imaginaries in cooperation with our city partners in Amsterdam Zuidoost,.Pakhuis de Zwijger, New Metropolis Zuidoost and City Council Zuidoost.
A popular scientific magazine and a documentary offer a view of how we organised the teaching of the students, the mapping of the peripheries, training the lecturers and some of the outcomes of the student research findings.
Community of Practice
We aim for a further future community of practice on Researching the city which can include you as well. We offer you a suite of open-access materials to be used by everyone to implement the IMAGE method; the Knowledge Hub platform, teaching case & process guide, teacher training material, and mapping toolkit.
The aim is that more and more students will develop their understanding of places and will enhance their employability skills, including first-generation HEI students from peripheral areas.
Teaching Staff can become researching the city experts. Inhabitants and city partners in the city peripheries will experience an uplift of the image of the area they live in and feel empowered. We aim to further develop and promote IMAGE as a research-based didactical method which is part of curricula at the consortium partners and beyond.
Our project has led to important contacts in our cities. Some examples from Amsterdam of the projects which will continue out of IMAGE are the Encyclopedia Mapping Imaginaries project (website under construction). In this project, the Spinoza Imaginaries Lab and Café in the World of Food with the Centre of Expertise Urban Governance and Social Innovation and Centre of Expertise for Creative Innovation at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences cooperate with City Council Amsterdam Zuidoost and Moving Amsterdam Zuidoost (movingamsterdamzuidoost.nl). To further create the story of Amsterdam Zuidoost we will work on an encyclopedic cartography in which we integrate the knowledge and stories who are the cultural capital of Amsterdam Zuidoost in order to make them part of the valuable history of this part of town. Using in this way the same method of mapping imaginaries that we developed during our project.
Being able to work from World of Food has been very special and the basis for better cooperation with among other things the making of the encyclopedia Mapping Imaginaries Bijlmer Amsterdam Zuidoost in cooperation with partners and friends in the area as an attempt to improve ownership and attendance in the current history-making.
Projects in the make are with www.amsterdam.750 in celebration of the founding of Amsterdam 750 years ago in 2024 and a project with Barcelona regarding future work skills.