Regional Outlook

Collective Intelligence for Sustainable Living and Learning


Collective Intelligence for Sustainable Living and Learning

To ensure the sustainability of the Southeast Asian region, we need to ensure that the region’s higher education sector is both agile and flexible enough to withstand future challenges. Through synergy and shared goals and the development of collective intelligence, policy choices and options for new directions for governments and universities can be learnt to facilitate adaptation and agility. A flexible system to foster internationalised lifelong learning is also crucial. In order to overcome the challenges faced, the evolving context of higher education carries a clear need for the application of collective intelligence, working together for better learning and a more sustainable future for the Southeast Asian region.

In July 2022 SHARE Policy Dialogue 15, on the theme ‘Envisioning the Future of a Common Higher Education Space in Southeast Asia’, was convened in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Training of Vietnam, the ASEAN Secretariat, SEAMEO RIHED, the ASEAN University Network, the UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education, and other members of the ASEAN Working Group on Higher Education Mobility (AWGHEM). During the event SEAMEO RIHED and SHARE announced their plans for the development of a new online platform for the region, in order to carry forward the work of the region’s partners in higher education, promote collective intelligence and learning for today’s
challenges, and provide a sustainable platform for the Community of Practice established by SHARE to complement the shared goals and vision of partners towards a common space. This platform is known as RIHED-SHARE.

Collective Intelligence and Communities of Practice

In seeking to engage in and contribute to an ASEAN community, the SHARE consortium saw Community of Practice development as an opportunity for participants in Higher Education Institutions to collaboratively develop, collect and share knowledge and strategies that would build capacity to better support students. Additionally, it was believed that this approach would create possibilities to explore and share best practices, creating meaningful learning opportunities and effective support for students, as well as exploring ways in which learning opportunities and support can better address diverse learner needs, including how technology can change the ways in which students engage in their learning.

“A Community of Practice curates and accelerates the learning process by identifying the common purpose of a group of people, provides a platform for interaction and creates a programme of activities.”

The Communities of Practice methodology emerged in the mid to late nineties. It draws on social learning theory to explain that learning is an intrinsic human need, and that a group of people who share a concern or passion for something they do will learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. A Community of Practice curates and accelerates the learning process by identifying the common purpose of a group of people, provides a platform for interaction and creates a programme of activities. These elements, People, Purpose, Programme and Platform, are referred to as the four Ps, and they guide the development of a Community of Practice. A Community of Practice for Higher Education practitioners would link theory, practice and policy.

The ASEAN Education Workplan specifically seeks to establish Communities of Practice on Higher
Education Mobility, related to the recognition of academic credit and outcome-based education. The establishment of such a community would, it was envisaged, also increase the availability of programme design and capacity development by facilitating mentoring and peer learning. The mention of mentoring and peer learning in the ASEAN HE workplan was reinforced by a needs analysis survey conducted among SHARE partner universities to test the feasibility of establishing a Community of Practice. They were asked, “How could a Community of Practice be helpful to you?” Most respondents identified that sharing expertise and mutual support would be the most helpful intervention, but opportunities to discuss emerging themes and relevant issues as well as formulating policies and protocols were also seen as helpful. Almost half the respondents felt that a Community of Practice would provide an opportunity to influence and offer input to higher education policy.

SHARE recruited volunteers, including a range of academic, support and management staff from eight ASEAN member states, to help set up the Community of Practice and establish a Steering Group. A series of five workshops was held, examining different aspects of community development such as writing a vision and a mission which would give a clear purpose to the group. Once this was completed, a programme of activities was created for the community. After the five workshops it was clear that there was a great deal of commitment and enthusiasm to form a Steering Group and forge ahead with building the community.

The Steering Group set about examining how to create an infrastructure for the group and grow membership. In doing so it faced several challenges, one of which was deciding who could be a member of the community. On the one hand we wanted to create a space where individuals could state their individual views, but on the other hand many members could only join with the permission of their employers and were constrained to reflect the views of their employers. Rather than choose between individual or institutional membership the Steering Group opted to allow both, although this is a compromise that does not effectively address the conflict between individual agency and institutional control.

Nevertheless, the SHARE programme was able to set up a Community of Practice that attracted over three hundred Higher Education practitioners to sign up, and which was able to deliver a programme of activities that included sharing expertise on mobility and internationalisation, seeking European funding, women in academia, quality assurance, consultation with the ASEAN Secretariat and building regional partnerships. As promised, the SHARE programme has supported the Steering Group to set up the community, develop a programme of activities and define membership and purpose. However, with this achieved, and with the current phase of the SHARE Programme ending in December 2022, questions have arisen over the existing Community of Practice platform and its sustainability, since current members would need to be transferred to a new platform.

Our Shared Goal: RIHED-SHARE

Recognising the importance of partnerships in higher education, and based on our shared vision for an inclusive space for collective intelligence in higher education for sustainable learning and living in Southeast Asia, SEAMEO RIHED saw the development of an open knowledge platform as a key driver towards achieving Priority Area 6 (Harmonisation of Higher Education and Research) of the SEAMEO Education Agenda and the 2030 United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development. Knowledge maximisation has also been identified as a key priority by SEAMEO RIHED, in the form of collective intelligence for the common space in Southeast Asian higher education.

SHARE Policy Dialogue 15, which took place on 27/28 July 2022, explored the ongoing efforts and partnership of SEAMEO RIHED, EU SHARE and the ASEAN Secretariat to develop a common vision for higher education, based on RIHED’s strategy and ongoing efforts to redefine the common space. During the event the proposal for RIHEDSHARE was put forward by RIHED as an inclusive and collaborative initiative to lay a foundation for enhanced regional cooperation in higher education and promote learning and collective intelligence. The need for more accessible, equitable and convenient learning has been clearly identified throughout the pandemic, and we have also seen immense potential for innovation as digital and educational technologies as well as new providers have allowed people to work and learn in spaces of their own choosing. However, more flexibility is required to accommodate learners throughout their life, as well as more equitable partnerships between higher education and other stakeholders involved in knowledge generation in order to facilitate more inclusive learning for all.

After being announced at SHARE Policy Dialogue 15 with a view to strengthening the engagement of the existing Community of Practice and providing an open platform to detail the developments of the common space in Southeast Asian Higher Education, improvements to the current functioning of the Community of Practice, as well as new features for RIHED-SHARE, are currently being developed to encourage regional knowledge sharing and dissemination, bringing together regional policy updates and options, research findings, and progress updates through a common and open platform.

With a planned launch later this year, RIHED-SHARE will operate until 2030 and beyond as an online meeting space and platform that aims to facilitate collective learning for the continuous development and sustainability of higher education in Southeast Asia. National governments, leaders and stakeholders in higher education, researchers, experts, and learners from diverse groups will be able to access and view higher education-related information, and it will provide curated content, analysis and information on a variety of topics related to the development of a common space in Southeast Asian higher education. RIHED-SHARE will also incorporate and upgrade the existing Community of Practice (CoP) platform, and will play a key role in ensuring the sustainability of partnerships in higher education by engaging audiences from the region and beyond.

ANDY GIBBS is a teacher, facilitator and consultant with expertise in curriculum development, quality assurance, recognition, internationalisation and mobility.
PHILIP MASTERSON is Senior Programme Officer at SEAMEO RIHED.