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December 6, 2018

Global Partnerships Lead to Innovative Solutions


 “Take Humber to the World” is one of the four pillars in Humber’s 2018-2023 Internationalization Strategy. Its aim is to provide students with opportunities to acquire the skills and knowledge to lead and innovate, within a global context. To drive initiatives within this pillar, Humber has partnered with a number of higher education institutions around the world. One of these being Denmark’s Copenhagen School of Design and Technology, or KEA.  

In October, Humber professors Bianca DiPietro (Graphic Design) and Elizabeth Fenuta (Architectural Technology) travelled to KEA to participate as faculty supervisors in the 2018 KEA Charrette International Design Week.

A ‘design charrette’ is a cornerstone of inclusive, community-based development. It’s an intensive, collaborative group planning session that brings together students, community members, and professionals from different disciplines to develop an innovative solution for a complex design problem centered on neighborhoods, communities, and even cities and regions. In all settings, the word “charrette” is used to capture the atmosphere of energy, creativity, and visual focus that emerges from different stakeholders working together with a common focus.


2018 KEA Charrette - Connecting Communities

The theme of the 2018 KEA Charrette was ‘connecting communities’. Students from countries spanning the globe—from Hong Kong to Sau Paulo—participated, representing a variety of disciplines including design, marketing, journalism, and architecture. Divided into working groups, each group was assigned an industry client and presented with a problem they would need to solve within the theme. Over five days of brainstorming, discussion and expert consultation, teams generated a broad range of innovative ideas to solve their client’s problem. Faculty supervisors, including DiPietro and Fenuta, stood by to support and help each group through the process and towards preparing a final presentation.



“There is tremendous value in these global partnerships,” says DiPietro. “As industries change and we’re no longer in independent programs, it’s important [for our students] to get that cultural experience, as well as cross-disciplinary experience.”

These high-energy collaborations are a very organic process that integrates diverse disciplines and perspectives and end up resulting in highly innovative solutions. Students get opportunities to build new skills and network with students and professionals from other countries and other disciplines. The KEA charrette also created new opportunities for faculty, to learn from and collaborate with industry and global faculty counterparts, as well as practice new instructional methodologies to use in the classroom.


Humber’s ‘Innovent’ Charrette: How Technology can Assist Dementia Patients

A few weeks after KEA’s charrette workshop, Humber’s School of Media Studies and Information Technology hosted its very own charrette. This was done in cooperation with another international partner from Denmark, UCL University College. The theme for the UCL-Humber design challenge—titled ‘Innovent’— was how technology can be harnessed to better assist patients suffering from dementia. The industry partner for this initiative was Welfare Denmark.

More than 80 students participated in the weeklong session, including UCL students who traveled to Humber from Denmark. The charrette brought together students from a variety of backgrounds including UX design, multimedia design and development, graphic design, web design and interactive media, as well as game programming.

“The charrette experience is a fantastic way for students to learn in a dynamic environment,” says Robert Blain, Professor and Program Coordinator of Humber’s Multimedia Design and Development diploma, who helped lead the week.

In an intense period of time, students had a powerful opportunity to work in multidisciplinary teams to solve a real-world problem, and build their understanding of their role as global citizens. They needed to work dynamically and collaboratively, with group of peers they were meeting for the first time, across disciplines and cultures. Communication, problem-solving, teamwork, and interpersonal skills were fundamental to the process, and natural outcomes.

At the end of the week the student teams presented their design solutions (apps; adaptive technology) to showcase their creative solutions to improve the quality of life of patients affected by dementia. Feedback was resoundingly positive from all participants.



Building Humber’s Global Perspective

From an internationalization perspective, international collaborations deliver invaluable results. “Global partnerships like this enrich the learning experience for faculty, students and the Humber Community,” says Blain.

The design charrette is a flexible model that can be applied to any discipline that values project-based learning. Humber’s experienced specialists in residence would be more than happy to provide guidance and direction.

To learn more or propose ideas, please contact Rebecca Fitzgerald, Associate Director, International Mobility and Partnerships:


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