How can a university be made resilient?
What should the organisation look like in 2025? It is time for a SWOT analysis of the organisation as it currently operates. What are our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats? Approximately 40 members of staff (primarily in support positions) consider and discuss these issues during a Strategic Plan meeting about the concept of ‘a resilient organisation’ on 2 November.
What do the attendees feel is needed to ensure a resilient University of Utrecht in the future? In a nutshell: trust, independence, flexibility, scope for development, organic structure, fluidity, knowledge sharing, getting to know each other better and seeking each other out, speed dating, development of self-directed learning, continual reflection, boldness and courage, room to take a broader view of things, and leaders who take a clear stand and instil a sense of pride in us all.
Complaining as the tie that binds
During the meeting, Henk van Rinsum, secretary of the Board at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, presents a spoken column setting out his vision of a resilient organisation (‘I consider myself to be an especially resilient person at the university’, the columnist jokes). Van Rinsum says that the word ‘resilient’ has an ambiguous meaning. On the one hand, it implies bending but not breaking. Tough, in other words. In a more negative sense, it conjures up the image of bowing to all forces.
However, resilience is also synonymous with robustness, implying defiance and strength over the long term. “In literature, resilience often means ‘a reaction to external turbulence’. Something that is resilient is reactive and refrains from setting an example”, explaines Van Rinsum. “I believe that the resilience of the university is created by two ‘ties that bind’: 1. complaining (resulting in an enhanced sense of solidarity) and 2. immense passion and exceptional loyalty.” Want to find out more? Read the full column (in Dutch).
Three visions of resilience
In addition to the personal vision of Van Rinsum, Hans Heesterbeek, professor of Theoretical Epidemiology, presents his theoretical vision of a resilient organisation during the meeting. In turn, Rick van Gangelt tackles the subject from a student perspective.
The organisers look back on a successful session: “We are surprised and delighted about how productive the meeting was and about the friendly and critically inquisitive atmosphere in which all the various ideas, opinions and visions were brought to the table.”
Join in the discussion!
From October to December, you are more than welcome to share your thoughts about the future of Utrecht University. During special sessions staff, students, alumni and partners of the University can discuss themes which they believe are important. You will be able to share your views on education and research, but also on the question of how the University could become even more sustainable and what role the campuses could play in creating an inspiring working and living environment.
Want to know more?
Read more about how the Strategic Plan is created and how you can contribute.