Are you a rising artist looking for ways to engage a community in your work?

An excited researcher wondering how to collaborate with citizens?

Or an educator striving for a student-centred pedagogic experience?

SciCulture’s Conference brought together artists, scientists, educators and entrepreneurs.

Our aims: to explore creative approaches and educational experiences that go beyond individual human perspectives.

Under the theme: “Transdisciplinary approaches for societal change – how different backgrounds come together to address wicked problems”, this conference was the wrap up of the Erasmus+ funded project SciCulture. On the last leg of a 4-year journey, what emerged from our attempts to respond to wicked problems? How have innovative pedagogical approaches unified different backgrounds in the search for a common goal? How can design thinking support creativity and transdisciplinarity, in an effort beyond individuality?

The conference happened on the13 November 2021 in Malta. Between international keynote speakers, workshops and roundtables, we brought the best of what we learned into three main foci: Collaboration, creativity and innovation in education, RRI (responsible research and innovation) in education and research, and Posthumanism for problem-solving and innovative pedagogies.

Focus one: Collaborative creativity and innovation in Education: from knowledge transmission to co-creation for complex challenges

Our modern problems need holistic solutions. For example, today’s cities require sustainable approaches that improve citizen wellbeing and economic stability. There are many factors weighing on this – green spaces, easily accessible amenities, good transport systems or efficient garbage collection. This multidimensional problem can only be fully addressed when we bring different disciplines, opinions and backgrounds together. But coaxing collaboration from transdisciplinarity is not an easy task and getting a meaningful conversation requires creativity. How can educators facilitate the communication between disciplines and marry their strengths? How can the creative process lead to meaningful co-creation?

Focus two: RRI in education and research approaches

Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) is a cross-cutting theme in the Horizon2020 EU Framework programme, aiming to democratise academic and scientific knowledge and tackle grand societal challenges. RRI is based on the principle that society should be involved in every step of the research process. This helps ensure a greater commitment to addressing societal needs, an understanding of stakeholders’ needs and role in the research, reflection on the impact that today’s decisions may have in future, and increased transparency and openness in the research and innovation processes. Inevitably, higher education needs to be closely attuned to this need and agenda, by preparing students to engage in RRI efforts and adopt a more responsible and responsive ethos. The Sciculture conference aims to explore how this effort can happen in practice. How can we (re)design curricula and pedagogies to equip higher education students to be and to become responsible actors, researchers, and innovators in a complex world, and to address grand sustainability challenges? How can we challenge current neoliberal agendas and marketized practices in HE and foster the renewal of higher education in times of systemic dysfunction? (Tassone et al. 2018).

Focus three: Posthumanist responses to wicked problems within Higher Education innovative pedagogy

Issues such as climate change, health and education access inequalities, political violence and global pandemics are now too complicated for humans to solve alone. If we take the emphasis off the human as the all-important subject and create a more equal relationship between humans and the environment, nature and technology, how might this change our ability to respond to these issues, and in turn how might this change what we do in Higher Education? The SciCulture conference raised questions like this to challenge our humanly driven Higher Education systems and pedagogies, to include the ‘other-than-human; and to disrupt pedagogies and systems in order that we can more productively respond to Anthropocene issues in the relationship with multiple ‘others’.