Erasmus Brussels University applied sciences and arts – Brussels, Belgium

At the Erasmus Brussels University of Applied Sciences and Arts (EBUASA), there is a diversity & inclusion program named Leiderschapstraject vanuit GROEI-waarden (Leadership program with growth values). The program was initiated by the human resources department. Currently, this office supports mainly every staff member that doesn’t feel well supported in the organization for whatever reason. This equity group was proposed/identified after the results of a wellbeing questionnaire for staff.

The activities that the department has carried out (in the last two years) with regard to equal access/inclusion/diversity are:

  • support and counselling for students and university staff;
  • lectures, workshops, seminars for students, faculty and non-teaching staff;
  • public promotion (e.g. production of media content such as podcasts);
  • improving digital accessibility;

The activities with the greatest impact in the context in which this program operates was training and public promotion because it created (and creates) a common mindset that it’s important that everyone has equal access to (higher) education. It doesn’t immediately make inclusion tangible such as the installation of a ramp for wheelchair users, but it ensures that everyone in the organisation is aware of the obstacles that a minority staff/students face and tangible improvements on physical, digital and social accessibility are easier to realize.

The last innovative practise/tool introduced at EBUASA when it comes to ensuring inclusion, diversity and equal access was the creation of ’A silent room’ for staff and students that need to get away from the many impulses on a campus or for students and staff who need space for prayer (inclusion for students/staff with neuro diversity, students/staff from different religious backgrounds, and students/staff who deal with mental health issues) Students and counseling staff were asking for a silent room for a long time, but it was never made a priority. A panel discussion with students and experts on diversity and inclusion created a breakthrough in the minds of our policy makers and silent rooms are now on the agenda for renovations on our campuses.

In addition to activities to support inclusion, EBUASA implements measures/activities to counter exclusionary and discriminatory practices through binding policy (legislation), recommendations/guidelines and preventive programmes.

The motivation to create this program was to strengthen a common ground for motivational leadership in the institution and to improve wellbeing of staff. The factor crucial for the institutional leadership in deciding to establish a service for wider access/inclusion/diversity for students/staff was the need for representation and its importance among staff (so minority students can see themselves represented in the organization as well). This program is a successful one because it is designed bottom-up and has a “for all approach” system. Every staff member (alas not students) had an opportunity to participate in cocreation sessions about the values for leadership within the institution. All staff members in leadership roles are encouraged to participate in the leadership program and each team filled out a team scan on wellbeing and motivation.
This leadership program fits within general legislation on wellbeing at work, but it’s not something this university does for legislation purposes.
The leadership programme is initiated by HR. They cooperate with an external organisation to shape and coach the leadership programme (Impetus Academy, Every person in a leadership role is encouraged to participate in the programme. The outlines of this project are designed by HR and Impetus Academy. Within the program there are opportunities for cocreation (design the values) and participation (team scan). Diversity, inclusion and equality topics are mentioned on the university’s strategies, policies and work plans.
The main challenges to establish a successful office were time restraints. The programme had to be deployed in a relatively short period of time and was pushed in people’s calendars. After receiving feedback regarding time-issue, the program is extended in time so participants don’t have to follow multiple sessions in a short period of time. The main obstacles to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the service is the willingness of the organization to agree to keep on funding the leadership programme for people who are new in leadership roles. The program is mainly funded with internal funds of the organization. The work of this program is totally independent, without the need for unpaid volunteers.
At Erasmus Brussels University of Applied Sciences and Arts, there is a formal evaluation process of the service through a team scan on wellbeing and motivation (copyrighted by Impetus Academy). The evaluation data is collected through questionnaires that are filled out by team members. There is a report on organization level and a report on team level. The team level report is discussed with the team as part of the program. If individual staff members agree, their personal questionnaire can be used for scientific research on wellbeing and motivation in organizations.

Leadership program with growth values (Leiderschapstraject vanuit GROEI-waarden)

Brussels, Belgium