The third FIT FORTHEM matchmaking workshop was all about Europe – from different perspectives

Written by Mira Väyrynen (JYU) with contributions of Bartosz Czepil (UO), Lukáš Vomlela (UO), Friedrich Plank (JGU)

The third FIT FORTHEM matchmaking workshop was organized on 30 September, this time together with the Experiencing Europe Lab. The title of the workshop was Experiencing Faces of Europe, and it was organized as an online meeting due to the current conditions with COVID-19. Hosts of the event were Mira Väyrynen from the University of Jyväskylä (JYU) and the coordinator of the FORTHEM Experiencing Europe Lab, Barbara Curylo from the University of Opole (UO). After the short introduction to the Experiencing Europe Lab and its context, it was time for three 1-hour sessions, led by academics from the FORTHEM Universities.

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko on Unsplash


Sessions by the FORTHEM Academics

The first session was about ‘Regional Europe’, and it was moderated by Dr Bartosz Czepil and Dr Lukáš Vomlela from the University of Opole.This session gave the opportunity for strengthening relations between the FORTHEM Alliance and its new external partner – the Border and Regional Studies Umbrella Network established within the Central European Program for University Studies, or CEEPUS. The network was established to improve mobility exchange and research cooperation among students and academics interested in problems embedded in the European landscape of borderlands and regions.

During the session, moderators presented the composition and main objectives of the network, together with possible topics for research cooperation. As the meeting was a platform integrating scholars from different European countries, it was a good opportunity to get feedback on specific research ideas presented by the moderators and to find possible partners for future cooperation. Thus, important part of the session focused on discussing the draft of the project focusing on experience of corruption on the European Union's external borders. The importance of such research was contextualized and justified by the phenomena like increase of international migration, stronger pressure on the EU borders, migratory flows from high to low corruption environments and general scarcity of studies on border corruption. It was agreed that the project might bring some relevant policy-making recommendations, but participants also pointed at serious methodological challenges with studying corruption-related phenomena. The session was closed by inviting members of the FORTHEM to the Border and Regional Studies seminar to be held in May 2022.

The second session was titled ‘Educational Europe’, and it was facilitated by Friedrich Plank from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. He presented their core team of Mainz university working in the Experiencing Europe Lab and their joint projects and future ideas in the Lab. Those included:

  1. Enhancing the Model European Union Mainz (MEUM): MEUM is a five-day simulation in which students engage in EU decision-making processes conducted at the JGU Mainz since 2012. Within the alliance, the partners seek to develop MEUM further and spread the simulation to other partners as well.   
  2. Developing E-Learning Tools on EU institutions and EU politics for MEUM: In preparation of the simulation, the partners seek to develop an E-Learning Module that enables students to learn EU decision-making and negotiation processes in preparation of their participation in MEUM.
  3. Enhancing the trinational Master’s Program in European Studies (Europamaster): The partners seek to spread also the Europamaster program to other universities, most notably a research-stay at the University of Valencia.
  4. Further ideas and matchmaking: The participants of the session also discussed further ideas and exchanged views and contact details for future cooperation.

The discussion was active around all these topics and good experiences were shared in the session related to e.g., Europamaster program. These outputs are developed further all the time and more stakeholders and academics are welcome to join the output development. In the next weeks, the Mainz team will make a call for participation in these ideas and outline developments emanating from the matchmaking in more detail to interested stakeholders within and outside the alliance. Moreover, new ideas will potentially emerge out of further exchange with participants of the session.

The title of the third session was ‘Europe of Peace’ and it was facilitated by Prof. Hélène Tourard from the University of Burgundy, Dijon. She introduced the topic from different perspectives and workshop participants shared their experience related to the topic of peace from the perspective of their own countries and cultures. There was an interesting discussion on what kind of research has been conducted in these regions and what does peace mean in the European context. Among other stakeholders, the Institute of Peace from France was represented in the workshop and contacts for future collaboration were shared.

The presentations and different types of polls and chats were open in Howspace, a collaboration platform used for the workshop, for two weeks after the event. This enabled all of the registered participants to contribute to the discussion even if they were not available for the meeting on the event date. The presentations by the academics were shared on the platform and the discussions could continue after the online event.


Friedrich Plank introduced the Model European Union Mainz (MEUM) to the workshop participants.


Participants and their feedback

There were altogether 33 participants in the matchmaking workshop (including the event organizers). Participants came from nine different countries, including Finland, Poland, France, Germany, Latvia, Spain, Czech Republic, Ireland and Hungary. 23 participants represented the FORTHEM Alliance universities, seven participants were from other universities and three participants worked outside  academia. The number of university-external stakeholders was rather low this time – however, the discussions during the workshop were very active between the participants from inside and outside of academia, and thus could be considered successful for the Lab and its goals for the workshop.

An online feedback form was open for two weeks after the workshop and the feedback was mainly positive. Participants liked the topics being limited and focused, and there was time for discussion in each session. Participants also found Howspace a nice platform to work in events like this, though some technical issues appeared in e.g., screen sharing and recording the sessions.

One more time – thank you for all the people who made this workshop possible!


Upcoming matchmaking workshops with FORTHEM Labs

We are almost halfway of our matchmaking workshops! Next workshop took place already on 8 October with the Climate and Resources Lab – stay tuned for the blogpost from this very first hybrid event.

This year, we will organize one more online workshop with the Resilience, Life Quality and Demographic Change Lab and hopefully, the two remaining workshops with Food Science and Diversity & Migration Labs will be organized as in-person meetings in the beginning of next year, as planned in the original project proposal. It is a lot of fun to meet virtually, but we would love to meet our amazing FORTHEM academics, colleagues, and all the stakeholders in person as well.

You will find the information about the upcoming matchmaking workshop from this page. We look forward to seeing you in our future events.


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