Bottom-up works: the importance of cooperation among international offices

Bottom-up works: the importance of cooperation among international offices

Has it ever happened to you that you feel you do not speak the same language as other people at your university? Have you ever come back from a conference or an international meeting with loads of new ideas to implement at your own institution and you are met with, at most, cold indifference or plain disbelief? Learn about an innovative approach to cooperation among international offices from The Green Cockatoo, winner of the 2014 Bo Gregersen Award for Best Practice.

Once upon a time… well, actually, ten years ago, the Heads of the International Offices of Catalan universities decided to create a group in order to share concerns and best practices, learn new ways and sometimes simply to feel that there are other people out there like ourselves – that we were not alone. This group, called ‘Cacatua Verda’ (Green Cockatoo), started meeting three times a year and many more activities and functions have naturally evolved since.

Why this funky name?

At the end of the nineteenth century, Arthur Schnitzler expressed the unstoppable force of the French Revolution in his work, The Green Cockatoo. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, our group ‘La Cacatua Verda’ (The Green Cockatoo) is aware of how unstoppable internationalisation has become, with the recognition that internationalisation should reach not only all individuals belonging to any university community, but also the design and purpose of all university services. Sometimes the funky name makes it difficult for others to take us seriously, but our work speaks for itself.

What types of projects do we work on?

Sometimes the group identifies a certain gap or a possible project that may benefit all the universities within the network. In that case, the group may all work together in the project or a special task force is created. The most prominent example of this was when the group decided to work on building up a set of internationalisation indicators with the aim of submitting these to the Catalan government so that the whole of the Catalan university system could work with the same set of indicators. At a second stage, we hoped that this would then set the example for Spain to follow suit, thus building up a set of reference indicators adopted by the whole country. Such a system could help universities to compare themselves effectively and to report based on the same agreed-upon definitions and criteria.

Cacatua Verda believes in the need for continuing education for professional development. This is why, since 2006, it organises a yearly summer seminar for all member universities. Some of the topics already targeted have been: internationalisation at home, international placements, health insurance for international students, crisis management, how to measure internationalisation, among others.

Bottom-up works!

Generally, associations or groups working in international relations stem from a governmental or official initiative. Nevertheless, Cacatua Verda was created from the bottom up, thanks to the ambition of the international offices of Catalan universities. Can there be true cooperation when in fact the members of the Cacatua Verda belong to different, competing universities? The answer is yes. Cacatua Verda members understand the complexity of the Catalan context and of their own universities, but they focus on the benefits of their cooperation and on helping each other.

The model of the Green Cockatoos is an excellent example of a best practice that can serve to help others looking to create a similar network of communication and support. The group was honoured with the 2014 Bo Gregersen Award for Best Practice for the way in which they are organised and the initiatives that they have developed. Are you interested in trying such a model and would like some more information? Please leave a comment below.

The Green Cockatoo consists of the following Catalan Universities:

Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya; Universitat de Barcelona; Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona; Universitat Pompeu Fabra; Universitat Ramon Llull; Universitat Abat Oliba; Universitat Rovira i Virgili; Universitat de Lleida; Universitat de Vic–Universitat Central de Catalunya; Universitat de les Illes Balears; Universitat de Girona