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Lab 1: In Bocca al Lupo. Crepi, o Vive? Venice 18-23 July 2021

By Simon Van Espen, honour student at KU Leuven, Belgium and participant in the Innovation Lab ()

Is a typical Italian way of saying good luck, but there is also a discussion about it. Let’s go back towards towards +-800 AD, when the luna wolf Lupa took care of two babies, whilst “biting” in their neck: Romelus and Remus, of which the first would give his name to the big city, the major empire, that became a phantom for many leaders in history, and is still the base for Italy’s fame nowadays

And let fame be something that people can frantically hold on to, just as structures and “habits”. Italians want the wolf to perish (crepi), because she bit the young babies. Higher education has a similar habit, but in a different way. That’s why it is important to be aware of the way we are providing (higher) education, and also why we should question how effective our innovation still is. To give an example, in the year 2021, at a “renowned” university as KU Leuven, a professor in a course about global challenges was still teaching us that the current extinction rate of living species on our planet is normal and natural. A few days before writing this, the Belgian news was stating exactly the opposite. Despite this, a part of the innovators and leaders of tomorrow are still being taught differently: Shut up and pass your exam

STEAM+, and especially the Venice lab, is trying a different approach; where yes, some things worked and others did not. In one of the lectures the focus on citizen science was too much on “how can we use citizens to gather data”. Then we are back to the power. In Dutch we call this the “Ivory Tower“: being stuck in your powerful place, not having any feeling with reality left. Whilst we should be there to help other civilians with their question, and work together, co-create, on a solution.

Thats is what is some of us did when we were split up into groups, based on our interests. We provided the lab with a framework, an invitation to a new way of thinking which people could engage in projects, solutions and their lives. And the nice way was the way this idea came to life. In our group, we did not feel like sitting down and looking at a computer screen: that just did not work. Rather, we looked for a big table outside, where we sat down, walked around, behaved “what would be considered “lunatic” in a traditional academic setting. But it worked! We formed ideas, talked to each other, worked together as one unity and came up with a brilliant idea. The next day it was a challenge to get back into that rhythm, especially as the project criteria asked for were trying to put us into a fixed framework. But they did not succeed And we were proud of that.

Being a bit cheeky can work, or as we liked to call it: “rebellious” :-p But that is what every discussion is about. Should the wolf die, because she is taking the babies by the neck, or should she live, because that is how she saved them and took care of them? We prefer to look at it the second way. To, for once not hold on to the academic tradition, but to be open. To be prepared.

Vive il lupo! 


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