During the academic year 2022–2023, HAMK Design Factory has truly spread its wings and strengthened its network. At the beginning of April 2023, we had the opportunity to make new connections with FH Vorarlberg (FHV) in Austria. We wanted to take the first multidisciplinary baby steps with the Social and Health Care Unit at Vorarlberg. In addition, our goal was to explore the possibility of setting up a new Design Factory. Together with Anna Olkinuora, our Dean of Social and Health Care Unit, we travelled to Austria. By the way, Swiss/Austrian railway network is brilliant. Works perfectly!
Our first meeting was with Dr. Heidi Weber. The refreshing approach was to take us for a walk, because personally, I love walking meetings and the weather was excellent! During our walk, we had our first insights to City of Dornbirn, and the lively city stole my heart. Even though we had very limited time for a meeting, I’m most grateful to Heidi Weber for organizing time from her busy schedule. The main topics of our discussion centered around Design Thinking, Design Factory concept, and future collaboration. Looking forward to our collaboration, especially because it will be together with Future Design Factory in Leeuwarden, Netherlands. Connecting three RUN-EU partners under the same theme.
The next day was full of negotiations. As an outdoor person, Prof. Erika Geser-Engleitner made an excellent decision and took us to the mountains and to her happy place. On our way there we received a massive knowledge package about Austrian life itself, the land, the role of cheese, wooden houses, Austrian economics, and nature. We even had the pleasure of meeting her family! Instead of lecturing inside, we “got our hands dirty” and I will remember this day always! Hopefully, we will see Erika soon at HAMK. Her research is closely related
to regenerative thinking, culture, and elderly people’s loneliness. Close topic to myself and to my interest. The rest of the day was our time in the nursing sector. Our sympathetic host Dr. Alison Themessl-Huber made us most welcome, and the result was very pleasant for me. I will facilitate during FHV’s next International Week one design sprint, which is related to Design Thinking of course, but also to regenerative design. This is the first time that I do something like this for the nursing sector and I’m very excited about this! My first profession is a nurse, and I can already see how combining nursing, technology, and business students can positively impact our students’ way of thinking.
What does this all mean in practice for students? Why am I doing what I’m doing? Just having fun and seeing new places? To the last sentence, I can say yes, that too, because I just love to make new connections. But above all, I’m doing this for our students, making new possibilities and paths, because international intensive design sprint weeks are bringing us, partners of RUN-EU alliance and Design Factory Global Network, together. This is the essence and beauty of doing this and building all the networks. I hope I can take a few students on my next visit to FHV and they will build their connections towards international careers. In practice, I try to make connections and agreements that our students can utilize and build their own careers more towards a regenerative world and combine an international touch in doing that.
Sanna-Maaria Siintoharju, lecturer and a head of HAMK Design Factory Valkeakoski