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TopaGune, sharing knowledge through participation

The UPV/EHU Summer Courses have proven to be an excellent meeting point and observatory to delve further into participatory methodologies for knowledge transfer. All the entities and stakeholders involved in the project continue to be committed to encouraging participation in the 2024 courses.

In 2020, the UPV/EHU Summer Courses Foundation (UIK) signed a cooperation agreement – based on the suggestions from the course participants and directors – with Gipuzkoa Provincial Government in order to test and implement participation methodologies.

Thirteen courses have been run using these techniques over these four years.  Three sessions entitled “Participation up for Discussion: Will, Power and Knowledge“ were also run between January and March 2023 to encourage participation in Gipuzkoa.  That approach is clearly enriching and all the parties in the project continue to be committed to continue to delve further into such methodologies.

According to Itziar Calvo, Head of the Citizen Participation Service at Gipuzkoa Provincial Government, "taking the opinions of the different stakeholders and people into account helps to enrich the construction or contributions of society, along with the processes. Accordingly, facilitating participatory methodologies has been Gipuzkoa Provincial Government's most qualitative contribution to the UPV/EHU Summer Courses".

UIK has prepared a practical guide for the directors who wish to use participatory techniques in the Summer Courses; Maider Kortaxarena, the UIK academic secretary, is in charge of their application and promotion. “We are offering the directors a support  guide, which will be constantly revised, on the application of methodologies that foster interaction and a climate of confidence between the Summer Courses' directors, speakers and participants, in order to design ways of participating that are in line with the goals of the course.    The courses have been classified according to the desired level of participation.  Those that foster a greater level of participation are known as TopaGune".

In those cases, the course director, the UIK academic management team and the course facilitator work together to design the most effective techniques. 

The Parte Hartuz research group at the UPV/EHU has played a key role in the implementation of these methodologies in the Summer Courses.  According to Igor Ahedo, who has a PhD in Political Science and is the principal researcher of the Parte Hartuz research group at the UPV/EHU, "the Summer Courses provide the university's role with greater outreach to society; in that regard, incorporating dynamics where the Summer Course students do not only receive, but also build knowledge, can be rather interesting. After all, knowledge has many perspectives: there is experiential knowledge, professional knowledge, technical knowledge and academic knowledge. Dynamics such as TopaGune enable knowledge to be circulated". 

Inti Fraile is a technician at the SIIS - Social Research and Information Service, is an expert in social inclusion and has a wealth of experience in applying these methodologies as a course organiser and director.  When reflecting on her experience, she stressed that "the TopaGune courses aim to encourage public participation; different models, forms and methodologies are therefore considered in order to base the learning process on mutual cooperation and knowledge". According to Inti “the TopaGune courses push you to focus more on specific goals and to better define the target audience”.

The facilitators' work is fundamental when it comes to applying the methodologies.  The involvement of participation experts allows the course management teams to focus on the content and take part alongside the others. Accordingly, the directors have the opportunity to be immersed in the experience and test these methodologies.  In this year's Summer Courses, UIK wishes to offer – and encourage – everybody working on the programme, the opportunity to use these methodologies.

The UPV/EHU Summer Courses pave the way in the field of knowledge, training and scientific dissemination; the UIK is committed  to offering quality knowledge by means of contemporary processes and resources. 

UIK is currently working on the 2024 programme which will be published on 11 April and the enrolment period will open on that same day.