Transforming policy design: the experiment of the Universidad de Ibagué (Colombia)


At Universidad de Ibagué (UI, Tolima, Colombia) an Experimental Policy Engagment is taking place. This is an ongoing  participatory policy design process (May 2019 – May 2020) that aims to define a capability list for the whole University.

The capability list should serve to characterize the aspirational ethos of the UI and inspire different policy activities of the whole University. In that sense, it will give directionality to the experiment. Capabilities are understood here as real freedoms (also real opportunities) to lead the kind of life people have reason to value (Sen, 1999). Capabilities are also framed under the core values of human development: participation, sustainability, equity and diversity.

The participatory making process is being conducted an interdisciplinary team led by the Provost and implemented by a group of faculties of the UI that conducted workshop and interviews. Also, an external expert on capabilities approach theory and participatory methods, accompanied all the process.

Up to now, the provisional list of 7 capabilities include the following: 2 capabilities related with the territory of the Tolima Department (collective construction and ecology of knowledge); 2 related with the internal university community (joint reflection and care); 2 around learning (integral training and integral leaders); 1 on the business sector (business for the common good).

The preliminary list has been defined involving 124 participants (64 women and 60 men) that represent the different roles of the university community: faculty, students, administrative staff, executive direction, alumni, companies and social organizations. They were asked to identify the main characteristics of an ideal UI, and the main enablers and obstacles to this ideal. From these narratives, plus an interpretation of capabilities contained in institutional documents and other capabilities list, the preliminary list was made (May-August 2019) by the interdisciplinary team.

This list will be discussed again with the stakeholders in another participatory setting and, from there, some pathways will be identified (October 2019). The next stage will include the design and gradual implementation of strategies and instruments defined in the pathways of the second stage, paying special attention to how conduct a formative evaluation of the policy process (November 2019- May 2020).

This process can be understood as a Mode 5 of experimental policy engagement because the way in which this policy is being designed is an experimental process of itself in terms of a distributed governance among the different constituencies of the UI. By this policy, the UI is launching a new way of designing policies and strategies where the UI community is actively involved and the methodology is based on reflexivity and learning processes.

This experiment touches upon key themes for the transformative innovation policy agenda: the role of experimentation in promoting a more distributed governance; participatory and inclusive processes in policy design with transformative goals ; human development and capability theory as an inspirational theory to frame transformative goals; the relevance of the context and characteristics of participants in framing directionality and policy processes and the interplay between bottom-up and top-down policy dynamics.

The main domain of the conference is The role of specific actors in transformative change, in this case, the role of universities.

Additionally, it touches upon: New ways of defining and conceptualising transformative change and its relationship with policy and geographies of transformative innovation policy: Context specific characteristics, issues of space and scale.

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