Inspiring anniversary 'WOTRO 50 Years - forward thinking'

17 October 2014

On 15 October the symposium WOTRO 50 Years- Forward Thinking took place at Museum for Communication in The Hague. Two keynote presentations, panel discussions, interactive breakout sessions and a student competition - the Battle of Ideas - formed the basis for an inspiring day.

Social Innovation

The central theme, social innovation in scientific research, was discussed by a diverse audience of academics, representatives of NGO's and compabies, politicians and students. The diversity of professional, social and cultural backgrounds led to many new and interesting insights. In addition, three teams competed in the Battle of Ideas.

WOTRO Science for Global Development

WOTRO Science for Global Development is part of the Dutch Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and is engaged in the financing of development issues and global challenges. The purpose of the symposium was to work with the attendees to look for new ways of doing research. Research is no longer limited to scientific research, but academics are increasingly working together with non-academics, bringing together different views and expertise.

Battle of Ideas

Picture: Sacha van SchalkwijkWinners of the Battle of Ideas!

As part of the celebration of their 50th anniversary, NWO-WOTRO organised the Battle of Ideas: a competition for bachelor and master students from the Netherlands and from abroad who are currently studying in the Netherlands. To enter the competition, students had to form a multidisciplinary team and jointly develop a social innovative solution for a specific global challenge. 

Three finalist teams were invited to join a TEDx training by Scott Blick about three weeks before the event. At the conference on Wednesday 15 October the finalist teams worked together in sandpits with experts on further developing and improving their proposed solution. And not with only experts from the field, but with the enthusiastic cooperation of the British School in the Netherlands (BCN), future experts also gave the teams new insights. For example, the idea of one of the teams improved substantially with the advise to bring their idea from a more positive perspective. And another team was advised to consider exploring their solutions in other countries as well. At some point the whole idea of a competition seemed to fade away, when the teams started to help each other at a joint recap.

During the recap in between the two expert sessions a ‘grounding’ training was given, to make the pitchers feel stronger at stage. And on stage they performed! Three outstanding presentations were given to the audience. Based on their initial idea and the outcome of the sessions, the conference audience finally voted for team 2 to win the battle!

The contribution of social sciences

Picture: Sacha SchalkwijkHeide Hackmann

Heide Hackmann, director of the International Social Science Council ( ISSC), presented her views on the importance of scientific research. The biggest challenge, according Hackmann, is to solve crises in a way that social equality, safety and well-being are guaranteed. "Progress in scientific research has been made, but there are still many problems we are facing, such as climate change, poverty, health and the Ebola virus."

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The power of WE

Picture: Sacha SchalkwijkJan Jonker

Jan Jonker (Radboud University) is a specialist in the field of sustainable development. He stressed that experts in the field and scientists need to find each other. Together they are stronger in forming 'research hubs' - a place where they can meet and share knowledge to solve problems in a more efficient way.

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Source: NWO