Mutuality in international cooperation

Mutuality in international cooperation


in international



The valuation exercise

during the seminar was the

source of


much laughter.


When 1+1 equals 3

In September 2009, teachers from universities in

Sweden, China, Colombia, Brazil, Namibia and

South Africa and coordinators from the International

Programme Office met in a seminar, for

which the theme was mutuality in international


The Linnaeus-Palme programme, which is financing

collaboration between university colleges and

universities in Sweden and in developing countries,

was the main focus of the seminar. Mutuality is the

central idea in the Linnaeus-Palme programme;

both parties should be able to work together on

equal terms even if the availability of resources

might be very different.

At the seminar, we discussed the challenge of

mutuality in international cooperation. Can academic

collaboration be equal and mutual when one

university is at the forefront of advanced modern

technology while the other may well lack electricity

on most days of the week? Furthermore, what could

the most prestigious universities in the world’s most

populous nations possibly have to learn from the

comparatively modest country of Sweden?

The definition of Mutual cooperation collaboration

in Linnaeus-Palme is common responsibility

and implementation. The benefits to be gained from

both sides shall be well-defined and their unique

knowledge and capabilities shall be utilised and

safeguarded in cooperation. A long-term approach

and understanding for each other’s contexts are

essential components in international cooperation.

One way of describing the difference between international

exchange and mutual international cooperation

is that while exchange above all requires

dialogue, mutuality demands active and conscious

interaction. Something new, stronger and greater

may be created in the meeting and collaboration of

two parties where both areas of knowledge and

competencies are utilised. The presence of reciprocal

collaboration multiplies the result: 1+1=3.

You have in your hand a small selection from

the seminar’s discussions, meetings and exercises.

We hope that this document will provide you with

inspiration in your work with international cooperation.

Best of luck with your international

efforts and initiatives!

Maria Kaarto

Coordinator Linneaus-Palme


The Colombia-Sweden project

focusing on the benefits

Mutuality must be in place right

from the start of the exchange.

It has to be clear why the parties

are interested in each other, or the

collaboration won’t work,” says

Ragnar Ahlström Söderling of

Dalarna University.

Ragnar Söderling and the representative for the Colombian

counterpart Universidad Nacional de Colombia had

met previously on an Alfa project* with University from

EU countries and Latin America and knew their institution

would be able to work well together.

“The combined knowledge and capabilities of our institutions;

system analysis, industry and social science

respectively, will complement one another. We have found

common interests and know there will be great benefits in

working together,” says Carlos Jaime Franco, of the Universidad

Nacional de Colombia, who is visiting Sweden.

Right from the second year of their work together, even

before the first exchange was carried out, they began to

consider the future possibilities of collaborative research

as a result of the Linnaeus-Palme cooperation.

Carlos’ specialisation is computer simulation and

Ragnar’s is entrepreneurship. They have also been thinking

about collaborating on a future research project on

solar energy, an area of expertise for the Dalarna University

college. The vast majority of Colombia’s rural areas lack

electricity supply, and a solution based on the use of solar

energy would be far more practical than constructing

and installing electricity infrastructure, which would be

an extremely time-consuming and expensive endeavour.

The first assign ment for the Colombia-Sweden collaboration

might be to figure out feasible

business models on how this

could be done and how opportunities

for research, development and

business for both parties might

be generated.

*EU financed programme of cooperation between

universities in the EU and Latin America


Exercises that reveal values

One way to stimulate

discussion is to use

value exercise. They

can draw out different

opinions, comfortable

as well as uncomfortable,

controversial and

innovative. The idea is

that everyone should

take a standpoint and

debate. An valuation exercise seldom gives clear

answers, but sets in motion different processes

which may lead to a solution.

Is mutuality really needed? What requirements

must be fulfilled so that international cooperation

might result in an equal share of gain and profit for

both parties? These were two of the questions that

came up during the exercises used by the International

Programme Office in order to promote discussions on

mutuality and encourage participants to exchange

experiences with each other. Our intention is to share

the resulting discussions as a tool in order to develop

the concept of mutuality further in various projects.

We also provide instructions to the exercises so that

they may be used in different contexts. Perhaps the

exercises could be used as a convenient and stimulating

ice-breaker on a planning trip. Or it might be

appropriate to bring up the discussions for students

or teaching groups preparing for travel abroad.

Remember to dare to allow the expression of all

opinions. We all come from different backgrounds

and this diversity needs to emerge in order for us to

be able to meet.

Joanna Castro Echeverri describes:


While doing the exercises, it became

clear that we use our own frames of

references and interpretations when we look

at each other. It is our values, our history,

what we’ve heard, the knowledge we have

had access to that defines how we perceive

each other. And we take that perception

with us when we enter into an exchange.”


The thermometer


The thermometer is a good

exercise to start with, an easy

way for everyone in the group

to be able to take a standpoint

and air their views. It can be

used to discuss the concept

of mutuality. It is essential

for the facilitator of the

exercise to see everyone

and break down potential


Explain that there is a thermometer lying on

the floor. It stretches from one side of the room

to the other. Appoint someone in the group to

decide which side is hot and which side is cold.

The hot side is for those who agree. The cold

side is for those who don’t agree. Then read

out one statement at a time.

than reasoning over the

differences or similarities, I see

this as reducing the distances between



Karl-Gunnar Rehn, Junior Lecturer and

L-P Coordinator, Umeå University

has knowledge but

of different kinds. The developed

countries should not define what knowledge



Vanessa-Lynn Neophytou, Senior Lecturer,

University of Kwazulu Natal, South Africa

is a challenge because

it’s about satisfying needs, both

one’s own and others’.”


Hanin Shakrah, Workshop Facilitator

Let the participants stand by the degree that

responds to their view.

Then ask one or more to explain their choice

of position on the thermometer. Remind them

too that changing their opinion is allowed

during the exercise. It might be good to warm

up with more light-hearted statements such as:

“I had a good breakfast this morning,” or “love

is what makes the world go round.”

The statements:

• It is essential that exchange is mutual.

• It is important to have something in common

with each other in order to create mutual


• Exchange is not mutual because of unequal

distribution of resources.


Amman and Växjö take

the long-term view

”Long-term relations – this will be

the catch phrase for our collaboration”

says Hazem Kaylani from

German-Jordanian University in

Amman and Imad Alsyouf from

Växjö University.

The institutions for engineering sciences at both universities

are still only in the planning stages of their collaboration,

but are very thorough about getting things right

from the beginning. In this way, they believe that they are

creating a lasting exchange that will continue even after

the Linnaeus-Palme funds and resources have run out.

One example of this, is that the parties in the Swedish-

Jordanian project have begun by writing a “Memorandum

of Understanding,” a basic steering document for

the project guaranteeing that all levels of the university

organisation are on board and in agreement with initiatives

and their objectives. In this way, everyone may be

prepared and has “calibrated” their expectations.

Why did these two parties, in particular, decide to establish

an exchange? Växjö University has a great number of

international students and a well-developed and thriving

campus. It also has a considerable number of teachers from

other countries, which facilitates the establishment of

contacts and allows new ideas to flourish. Besides this,

Växjö University has collaborated with Jordanian universities

previously. Furthermore, the culture of Jordanian

University is conducive to exchange, which is seen as a

means of enhancing the quality of studies.


Key to success

What is it that determines

who we choose to work

with? Do we seek someone

we have something in

common with, or someone

who is different from

ourselves in some way?

Is it a particular area, a

subject, or a person that

alerts us to the possibilities

of collaboration?

How does this affect results? These are some of the

questions that might come up in the next exercise.

By starting at an individual level, it will later be

possible to elevate the discussion to a higher level.

The exercise might also work as a tool for finding

new subjects to collaborate on.

is interesting when the exchange

has a ripple effect; people establish

contact with each other and start something


completely new.”

Annelie Hyllner, International Coordinator, University of Gothenburg

was immediately apparent how

the different individuals sought out

people who were relatively like themselves


– not in the capacity of their skills or fields of

competence, which they wrote down on their

post-it notes, but in terms of language. But

probably also because it’s easier to speak to

someone who you believe, quite simply, who

uses the same frame of reference as you.”

Leandro Schclarek Mulinari, Workshop Facilitator


Ask everyone to think of a good quality about

themselves and a field of competence at the

institution. Then ask them to write these two

points on a post-it note and pin it to their

jumper or top. Then give the group about 5-10

minutes to choose who they might want to

establish a project with. Which quality or field

of competence would they wish to complement

their own with? There should be at least two

people to a group and at the most four.

Swedes need to know that there

is a big world out there, beyond our

shores! The Swedish university world is so


bureaucratic and stiff.”

Göran Wall, Senior Lecturer, University of Gotland

Let the couples/groups then sit down and give

reasons for their choices. Lead a discussion on

the topic of why they chose similar or different

fields of competence. What sort of additional

value could they create together and give to

the project, on an individual level and on a

greater level?


Far-reaching cooperation

anchored between Blekinge

and Kunming

”It’s important to involve all levels of

university life: students, teachers,

researchers and administrators. That’s

when you get the most out of it.”

Sharon Kao-Walter from the Blekinge Institute of Technology,

Yilin Chi and Xing Wu from the Kunming

University of Science and Technology in the Yunnan

province, in south-west China, are in agreement. They

have been working together for six years, with ten teachers

and twenty students participating in the exchange,

which has gradually developed into an extensive mutual

research project that now also involves Chinese business

and industry.

It all began with the visit by a delegation from the

Kunming University of Science and Technology to the

Blekinge Institute of Technology. Both universities discovered

that they complemented each other in terms of

teaching methodology, course content and research, and

decided to establish an exchange.

“Over the course of six years, we’ve broadened the

scope of our work together, developing a solid relationship

based on good mutual understanding, in terms of both

teaching and research” says Sharon Kao-Walter, Yilin Chi

and Xing Wu.


The four corner exercise

If there is a problem,

who can do something

about it? A four-corner

exercise which focuses

on solutions is an excellent

way to conclude

a discussion. The idea

is to identify who can

do something about

the issue and draw

everyone’s attention

to different, alternative solutions. Hopefully, some

completely new ideas will come up. We describe a

few here. It might help generate ideas as to how a

project can be developed, or you are now ready to

write an application.

I believe is difficult to

create in a world pervaded by rising

global inequality. It is, however, possible to


create a more mutual relationship, and in

order for this to happen, the groups have

to analyse partly how much power they have

in relation to each other, but also dare to

be open and candid about how this balance

of power might affect the exchanges.”

Leandro Schclarek Mulinari, Workshop Facilitator

should make evaluations of

the exchanges available for the

whole university so that everyone will be



Eric Freid, International Student Coordinator,

Jönköping University


Divide the room into four corners representing

four different answers. Participants choose an

answer and stand in the corner that corresponds

to that alternative. It’s essential that

one of the corners is open to other opinions

too. Read out the statements and then discuss

why the participants have chosen to stand in

their respective corners. Remind them again

that all opinions are allowed.

conclusions were that creating

mutual exchange in an unfair

world is extraordinary and revolutionary,


but also tricky, troublesome, messy and

awkward. And it’s precisely because of this

that it’s so vital that we continue in our

work together. We have to have the courage

to disagree and even dare to change our

opinions sometimes.”

Lina Myritz, Workshop Facilitator

Who of the following are best suited for creating

the conditions necessary for reciprocal


• Politicians • Project owners

• Everyone • Open corner

It’s important for the exercise leader to ask

follow-up questions such as “how?” and “in

what way?”


Sweden and Namibia enhanced

each other’s creativity

”I’ve never felt that Sweden has

contributed more to our collaboration

just because Namibia is a poorer

country. We have both learned just

as much as each other!”

These are the words of Suzette van der Smit, Coordinator

at the Teacher Training College in Windhoek, talking about

the long partnership with Umeå University’s teacher

training education programme, which has been running

for eight years.

The project is soon to end, however, and Suzette and

her Swedish counterpart Karl-Gunnar Rehn are right now

in the process of summarising the wealth of know ledge that

has been amassed during the cooperation. The institutions

that have been involved in the exchange specialise in the

aesthetic subjects: handicraft/woodwork, art, music, dance

and movement as well as arts in culture. The objective has

been to find new ways and methods of expression, and

new “languages” for the purpose of creative expression.

“The Swedes have learned to discover the materials

around them. In Namibia, we work a lot with “found

materials”, in other words the type of materials others

might consider litter or rubbish. We challenge our creativity,

and the Swedish have also been able to do the

same. Everything has its use!” observes Suzette. “In turn,

the Swedes have helped the Namibian participants learn

the art of working independently. If you come up with an

idea, follow it through yourself and see where it leads.”

“We’ve had so many new ideas from the project. In

order to spread them, we arranged a conference in Namibia,

in 2006, on the creative process in teaching. The conference

was held at the National Institute for Educational

Development. In addition, we ran a course in creative

studies, which was open to all,” explains Karl-Gunnar.


The International Programme Office for Education and Training

How to reach us in Stockholm

Telephone: +46 (0)8-453 72 00

Fax: +46 (0)8-453 72 01

Street and delivery address:

Kungsbroplan 3A, 2nd floor, 112 27 Stockholm

Postal address: Box 22007, 104 22 Stockholm

How to reach us in Visby

Telephone: +46 (0)8-453 72 00

Fax: +46 (0)498-212360

Street and delivery address:

Hamnplan 1, 621 57 Visby

Postal address: Box 1413, 621 25 Visby

The International Programme Office 2009 Texts: Jessica Olson, Anna Sahlée. Graphic Design: Hemma. Photo: Denny Lorentzen. Print: Danagårds

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