Many institutions were inventing the wheel themselves. That took a lot of time and energy. I then suggested that we work more together
Ger Reijnders recently stopped as Director of KIEN, an ICT cooperative in the Drechtsteden region and Alblasserwaard. KIEN is an organisation that is similar to SURF and SIVON, but at the regional level. What was the need, in his view, for (co-)founding KIEN? And what does he see as the strength and added value of a cooperative?
‘What motivated me to start working in ICT was not so much the technology itself, but much more the question: what can you do with it and how can you make education with ICT more enjoyable and fun with as little hassle as possible? In my early days, around 2007, I saw that many institutions were inventing the wheel themselves. That took a lot of time and energy. I then suggested working together more. Learning, developing, sharing and exchanging together. We also save money together because ICT is capital intensive and we want to spend as much resources as possible on education. This collaboration with the regional education institutions speeded up in 2011 and the KIEN cooperative was established in 2013. As an organisation comparable to the national cooperatives, such as SURF and SIVON, but at regional level.’
Also sharing failures and errors
‘The strength and added value of a cooperative are huge. By combining a lot of volume, your position as a buyer is better when making purchases and you are able to obtain products in the market at competitive prices. Pooling knowledge also makes a cooperative interesting for the business world. It enables us to tie knowledge suppliers to us. And, within a cooperative, it is easier to exchange solid knowledge and to learn from each other. The cooperative is the shop where you can find ideas and things that have been invented. At KIEN, we have really established a learning relationship with each other. It is also important to share your failures and errors, as you tend to learn the most from your mistakes. Together, we examined what was necessary with regard to the new privacy legislation and regulations, and jointly took organisational and technical measures. A great result of this was that we appointed a Data Protection Officer at cooperative level who works for all members. The transition of ICT facilities to the cloud is also an example. In this process, you move one member after another member, taking the learning experiences with you every time ’
After all, collaboration only works if one keeps an open mind. I really see a cooperative as setting out on an adventure together. This also means that you must regularly dare to step beyond your own shadow and boundaries
Going on an adventure together
‘I have always worked with a cheerful resilience. If something does not work, it is important to find new energy so as to remain cheerful and be able to change course. After all, collaboration only works if one keeps an open mind. I really see a cooperative as setting out on an adventure together. This also means that you must regularly dare to step past your own shadow and boundaries. This strategy has served us quite well over recent years.’
Contributing to social well-being
‘I am really convinced that collaboration is the way forward and I also see it as the solution for education. Furthermore, I enjoy contributing to society. Although education focuses on the development of the individual, it also contributes significantly to social well-being. The ROCs (Regional Training Centres) are mainly about strengthening the power and growth of the regions. In that respect, we also differ from SURF. SURF is particularly good at developing, combining and translating knowledge at a high level into innovative and high-quality applications. Our strength is, above all, that we are very close to all the regional parties involved.'
Secure and digitally literate
‘Of the many challenges that have arisen in recent years, two really stand out in my opinion. The first is an example of resilience. How do we make sure our information is well secured, our students and lecturers are well protected and our privacy safeguarded? Collaboration in this context mainly means sharing risks together on the way to a secure Internet and a secure digital learning and working environment. This topic remains extremely important and topical. Just look at the incidents at InHolland, Maastricht University and NWO. The other challenge is about the continuous development of our digital literacy. This is of great importance in all aspects of education. Both challenges came together in the past corona year and became even more urgent: how can you ensure that you can provide safe and good education from home?’
If you do not build walls around your institution or think in terms of threats, and work together to strike a good balance between giving and taking. Only then can you add value to education using ICT
The place of effort
‘These kinds of topics and challenges have always inspired me greatly. After all, before you can use it to add value to education, you must first study and master it thoroughly. You have to find the place of effort, as I always call it. And my heart beats faster when we make a conscious effort together to achieve that objective. If you allow yourself to be amazed by others and do not adopt an ‘I know better' attitude. If you do not build walls around your institution or think in terms of threats, but rather work together to find a good balance between giving and taking. Only then can you use ICT to add value to education. This remains beautiful and challenging, as the complexity of ICT has increased enormously.’
Responding to needs
‘SURF can still add a lot of value in the near future. For example, in the area of powerful innovation and joint purchasing. ICT is developing rapidly and education is becoming increasingly dependent on it. More and more resources are directed towards ICT and require demand bundling. SURF can add a lot of value here. And I also advise SURF to continue looking for places of effort. By continually identifying needs and responding to them. SURF can do this as no other, because it is constantly reinventing itself. That is what SURF is very good at.’
‘I am looking forward to working in Rotterdam, as someone from the Brabant region. I really like the direct approach people adopt there. With 40 locations, 2,400 employees and more than 21,000 students, I will undoubtedly be facing a lot of beautiful challenges there. And I am going to face them again with cheerful resilience. ’
Text: Johan Vlasblom
Image: De Beeldredactie
'Always looking for the place of effort' is an article by SURF Magazine.