Convergence research master involves stakeholders from the get-go

‘What kind of sustainable health challenges do experts face within their organisation? What kind of person would suit their organisation to tackle those problems?’ These questions were asked in the fourth brainstorming session on the new transdisciplinary research master Sustainable Health, this time with the project’s societal partners.

The new research master in Sustainable Health is Convergence’s first major educational project. It ventures outside the university’s usual paths to involve stakeholders from the very beginning in shaping education. For the master’s project team, that much is clear: You need a transdisciplinary development process when developing a transdisciplinary master’s degree. That is why they organized brainstorming sessions with colleagues, students, and now with societal partners.

The attending organisations included universities of applied sciences, GGD Rijnmond, the Municipality of Rotterdam, Yuverta, and many others. Vice Dean Maarten Frens said, ‘I normally see the usual suspects at these kinds of sessions. This time, I see a lot of new faces, especially nice and exciting. With the current and future problems of our healthcare, we need new types of professionals who are specifically trained to tackle these complex issues.’

As a university, we should shift from individual excellence to collective intelligence.

Project leader Wilma Oosthoek

Biggest challenges

It was time for the first round of brainstorming: ‘What are the major sustainable health challenges in your organisation?’ Using images, the discussion took off. Examples included the unequal distribution of environmental factors and knowledge thereof and the importance of different societal perspectives to get projects off the ground. Many saw the siloing and isolation of universities as a barrier to change.

Wilma: ‘I think it is a blind spot: within the university, a language is spoken that only the university and its alumni understand, but that means we overlook the majority of the population. You need to create some confusion within the university by letting in other types of knowledge, such as experiential knowledge.’

New professionals

The theme of the second round of brainstorming was: ‘What kind of experts do we need to solve these sustainable health challenges?’ The new professionals should be accustomed to (radically) different perspectives, be willing to work together, know what mobilizes people, and be able to visualize what does not yet exist. The role of scientific research was also a point of discussion: it should get more involved in practical matters to optimise its right to voice in practice.


In the last round, the discussion steered towards what the collaboration between the societal partners and the research master could look like. Wilma: ‘This collaboration will be essential in further developing and implementing the master. I would say the first seeds for a fruitful and sustainable collaboration have been planted.’