The porous campus: why it’s good for the future of education

One of the key challenges facing our clients and friends across the board is how to attract and engage the world’s best talent. In the world of the university campus, best talent includes students, academics, alumni, industry, and partners, who all contribute to the successes by which universities are now judged.

Interestingly, one of the key attractors for all these audiences is the right access to each other, a wonderful, rich mix of ideators, thinkers, generators, and commissioners who together have the capacity to create new futures and tangible innovation. Crucial,  then, to an attractive campus of the future is actively bringing these audiences together to connect and exchange.

The key here is the porous campus, one that invites all to participate, that allows visibility and access to a diverse range of programmed activities and events, that provides diverse platforms to meet, test, create and express thinking and co-created outcomes, that shares its stories, its connections and its uniqueness live and in the moment; and through doing all of this is ever-activated, creating a virtuous circle constantly pulling together diverse talent. It is the marketplace – both physically and metaphorically. It is a place that attracts and engages through a diverse offering and that enjoys the ebb and flow of people and what that creates.

There is immense value in bringing talent together in such a way and universities know it! Whether it’s building relationships, early networking, job offers or creating working partnerships that lead to increased graduate employability stats for universities, or the friction of unholy alliances, mentoring, new ideas or the creation of research and development ideas that lead to grants and commissions, universities and their target audiences all benefit from the rub of coming together in collaborative and interesting ways.

So how do you ensure you are attracting, involving and creating a sense of belonging for these key user groups? Through a considered and designed user experience; that is, one designed collaboratively with your ideal user groups so that the realised experience is ever-attractive and relevant to them. It creates awareness drawing in your key crowds. It relates to them. It engages them. It encourages them to take part. It celebrates that togetherness and broadcasts it to invite new audiences in.

There already exist some great cross-sector examples proving the value and success of this type of open and engaging experience to attract talented audiences. Brookings’ study into Innovation Spaces notes that based on its porosity and active programme the Cambridge Innovation Centre (CIC) in St Louis celebrates attracting 800-1000 people a week into their space.This creates high levels of footfall and engaging interactions across audiences, making it a magnet for new ideas and business. In fact, as CIC claims, ‘more start-ups than anywhere else on the planet!’ Another great example is MIT, whose research into innovation clusters encourages inclusivity for everyone, free flow of people and information, and a regular programme to draw people in, resulting in a healthy network to boost start-ups and industry partnerships.

Ultimately, as in the trends we are seeing in workplace, a key attractor for talent is: ‘Who will I have access to, learn with, collaborate with connect with? And how will that help create what happens next?’ There are countless opportunities to be explored with the right mix of people, programme and place, and it is designing experiences that enable these encounters that will attract and encourage talent to take part and buy in. This is what we want from the campus of the future!


Image Credit: Quentin Chevrier (Main header image) , Marla Aufmuth / TED (Featured Image)