Kick-off joint VU-UT research program ‘Creating secure societies: Resilience in Action’

On Wednesday 10 February, the University of Twente (UT) and Vrije Universiteit (VU) Amsterdam organized a workshop with more than 50 UT and VU scientists as a kick-off for the joint research program Creating Secure Societies: Resilience in Action. The workshop was jointly opened by Theo Toonen (Dean of the Faculty of Behavioral, Management and Social Sciences [BMS] at the UT) and Karen van Oudenhoven-van der Zee (Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences [FSS] at VU).

The Secure Societies programme is one of four coalitions within the VU-UT collaboration (other coalitions are Creating Smart Societies, Creating Responsible Societies and Creating Talent for Societies) and focuses on analyzing and addressing complex security issues. Secure Societies will focus on multidisciplinary research that is directly linked to practice and has specific attention for the role of technology. Future research will focus on one of the programme’s three sub-themes: crisis management, polarization and undermining.

Workshop

During the workshop, NWA-ORC research proposals were presented on all three sub-themes by teams of UT and VU scientists. On crisis management, Kees Boersma (VU, FSS) presented a project that aims to make the cities of Beira (Mozambique), Manila (Philippines) and Kabul (Afghanistan) resilient against crises by means of ‘Living Labs’. On polarization, Dirk-Martin Grube (VU, Faculty of Religion and Theology) and Jacquelien van Stekelenburg (VU, FSS) presented their proposal to use virtual reality to teach young adults at institutions for secondary vocational education (MBO) how to deal with conflict in a constructive way. On undermining, Ellen Giebels (UT, BMS) and Miriam Oostinga (UT, BMS) presented the project that should generate new, AI-based interventions for tackling the production of drugs.

Based on these first attempts to develop the Secure Societies sub-themes, groups of UT and VU scientists themselves set to work in parallel breakout rooms. What are the most pressing issues when it comes to crisis management, polarization and undermining? How does technology play a role in this? How are complex security issues expressed at different levels, from local to regional and international? What innovative methods can we use – or develop – to study these issues? Which social stakeholders can we involve in this? Various ideas were discussed, such as the use of remote sensing techniques and social media data as an information source for crisis management; investigating mistrust of the government and traditional media; and the different ways in which organized crime is intertwined with society.

Under direction of Edwin Kanters, the VU subsidy desk was also present to make an initial scan of relevant funding calls for the discussed themes and ideas.

Future workshops

The questions that UT and VU scientists worked on in the parallel sessions will again be the focus during upcoming Secure Societies workshops, where we will further elaborate on the sub-themes and research ideas with a view to specific grant applications. Here too, the subsidy desk will be closely involved. Are you curious about the collaboration between VU and the UT and do you want to stay up to date with regards to upcoming activities? Send us an e-mail.

Point of contact UT: Miriam Oostinga m.s.d.oostinga@utwente.nl