2.3 Promoting renewal through the organisational culture

Auditointiryhmän arvio

Based on the audit visit, it is evident that one of Aalto’s strengths is the organisational culture that encourages experimental activities and active engagement with stakeholders. Aalto’s incubators and accelerators support societal impact. Furthermore, Aalto Startup Centre and Innovation Services have proven effective in providing support services for researchers interested in exploring the commercialisation potential of their results.

Several intentional procedures also support and strengthen the university’s creative atmosphere. One such good practice is Space 21 – for unexpected ideas, outcomes and encountersoffering free studio spaces for all Aalto community members to experiment and explore new ideas.

Aalto has functioning procedures to support the use of the competences possessed by its staff and students. Many internal forums at the university, school and degree programme levels are available for joint analysis and co-development. The University Preview, University Review and University Dialogue processes are participatory and supported by collaborative discussion forums and community events. Staff competencies are reviewed and developed in the My Dialogue process, and staff may request professional and pedagogical training in specific areas they are interested.

Overall, staff workshop participants characterised Aalto’s organisational culture as appreciative and supportive, stating that many possibilities are available for staff members to show their potential. They also emphasised the high level of encouragement to collaborate across the school, departmental or unit boundaries. As for pedagogical development, staff members appreciated the availability of team-based encouragement and peer-driven teacher cafes and teacher teams for sharing problems, solutions and best practices. A!OLE project was mentioned as an enabler for teaching development. On the other hand, it was also stated that due to Aalto’s founding history, different schools have different backgrounds and traditions. Thus, the challenge for Aalto is keeping those local cultures alive while still having an aligned organisation.

The HEI seeks opportunities to engage with stakeholders in activities that enable renewal and enhancement. Aalto is a strong actor with an open attitude towards society. Aalto cooperates with the community, other universities, companies and research organisations.

Alumni cooperation brings a lot of added value to enhancing Aalto’s activities. As mentioned in the SER, more than 40 alumni associations organise activities for alumni. Based on the audit visit, Aalto benefits from alumni cooperation in many ways. For example, a new mentoring programme was established with about 100 alumni acting mentors for students, alumni proposals have led to new programme initiatives, and alumni have contributed to the university strategy and funding of new programmes. At the same time, as recognised by Aalto’s top management and Board, alumni cooperation still has unused potential. Thus, the audit team encourages Aalto to strengthen and systematise alumni cooperation and utilise advisory boards as idea generators and sounding boards even further.

The management of Aalto’s multilevel national and international networks supports implementation and brings added value to the development of internationalisation, research, artistic activities and education. As mentioned in the SER, Aalto belongs to many international networks, including six European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs). As another good example, Aalto is part of the Unite! European University alliance of innovation, technology and engineering, consisting of nine universities, brings new possibilities for Aalto students’ internationalisation and joint research projects.

Aalto has defined its strategic partnerships at the university and school level, and stakeholder relations and collaboration networks are maintained through Aalto’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Based on the interview with the Board, Aalto has progressed, particularly in corporate cooperation, being more selective, seeking long-term partnerships, going to unknown areas and trying to learn together. However, as stated in the SER, Aalto strives to increase strategic partnerships with major national and international companies.