The University of Twente’s (UT) Digital Transformation course, which is taught at and in cooperation with Achmea and the Dutch Tax Authority (Belastingdienst), recently delivered its second batch of graduates. Fifty participants were awarded their certificates. UT scientists have teamed up with professionals from Achmea and the Dutch Tax Authority to develop the knowledge and skills needed to bring about digital transformation. The course is part of the Centre for Security and Digitalisation (CVD) in Apeldoorn, where businesses and knowledge institutions join forces with the aim of creating a secure digital society.
Both Achmea and the Tax Authority are currently undergoing a digital transformation. The course participants are eager to understand the challenges and opportunities their organisations will encounter on this journey. They also want to reflect on what this means for the organisation’s strategy and their own role within it. Making the connection between academic knowledge and skills on the one hand and the daily practice of the participants on the other hand is therefore essential.
The course in Apeldoorn consists of four modules – business and IT, data and ethics, data science and security – and is continuously evolving. The three partners work together closely to determine its future development, drawing on participants’ experiences to optimise opportunities for life-long learning. As Marc-Jan Zeeman, one of UT’s course representatives, explains: ‘We ask everyone to participate actively and to reflect on the content and form of the course, so that we can make adjustments where necessary. The challenge is to design a learning process that is scalable for the organisations while meeting the personal learning needs of participants.’
Developing an educational experience that is both personalised and scalable calls for case-based group work backed by relevant theory. A crucial element in such an approach is personal and structured supervision of the groups. With this in mind, a new component was recently added to the course: a masterclass for moderators. To make sure that all fifty participants received the intensive guidance they needed, ten moderators were recruited from Achmea and the Tax Authority. They were then trained by UT’s DesignLab in an approach known as Responsible Futuring. The moderators then applied this training when guiding the group work during the data science module of the course. This has also equipped them with skills that will go on to benefit their own organisations, such as how to guide a community of practice.
Prof. Bernard Veldkamp, core lecturer of the data science module, and Maartje Huinink, moderator from UT’s DesignLab, collaborated closely to achieve a meaningful fit between theory and group work. Maartje takes us deeper into the world of Responsible Futuring: ‘It’s mostly about taking an interactive and creative approach to collaboration. This enables us to jointly explore a future in which technology is interwoven with our daily lives and what we want that future to be. The participants interviewed various stakeholders who have a special interest in data science and its impact on society, including a number of MEPs. They then used these different stakeholder perspectives as a basis for coming up with creative solutions to societal issues associated with data science. This enabled them to explore a range of future scenarios and to reflect on what is desirable.’
Norbert Evers – Agile, LEAN/SENS and COPC Advisor at Achmea – is one of the course moderators. His focus was data use in the event of fraud: ‘The central question was how far to go in using public data to prove fraud, if someone is tagged on Facebook for example. Using Responsible Futuring, we approached stakeholders, took an in-depth look at the interests involved, and collaborated on user guidelines. I found it fascinating to see how the participants modified their positions and the cooperative approaches that emerged. This could certainly be applied at Achmea when dealing with socially sensitive issues.’
Lex Frentz – a course moderator from the Tax Authority – fulfils a leadership role for its innovative and sustainable software development teams. Norbert’s assessment rings true for him too: ‘I am very excited about the Responsible Futuring approach. It’s a creative and active way to gain a broader understanding and new insights while respecting each other’s points of view. Participants not only take a deeper look at the interests of the stakeholder they represent, but also engage with stakeholders in other areas. If nothing else, this leads to greater support and understanding within the discussion group itself. These aspects make Responsible Futuring a very promising methodology, especially when applied across a broader spectrum.’