On 9. November 2021, I had the pleasure to witness how; even though we may be from different parts of the world with different languages, different political views and ways of life, we all had on this evening a will to improve communication and better understanding as well as strengthen business partnerships.

The opportunity was the East West Forum. A hybrid platform where in a three-hour time span, participants from 5 continents came together to learn, listen, share and build opportunities. As the contact person for this Forum, I would like to give you a behind the scenes look at how this developed, what was the outcome and my personal take on the Forum.

Panel Discussion: Opportunities and Challenges of International Cooperation in the Free State of Saxony
Panel Discussion: Opportunities and Challenges of International Cooperation in the Free State of Saxony

  The Idea  

The idea for the East West Forum started in early spring 2021. Prof. Andreas Schmalfuß, Dean of Industrial Engineering, had the idea to provide a platform where present partner universities, potential partners, companies and students could come together to establish further international relations and to strengthen existing ones. Through such a platform of international cooperation and cross-border exchange, this would not only promote scientific achievements, but also influence teaching content and methodology. Prof. Schmalfuß brought together his team and the East West Forum was developed with the theme:

Global Networking – The Key to Business Success.

As the development continued for the Forum, two current topics were felt to be an integral part of the key to a successful business and should be addressed at this conference: Global Communication and Corporate Social Responsibility. Both are topics that play major roles in international business today and will continue in the future. In addition, it was felt necessary for the participants to become more acquainted with the University of Applied Sciences Mittweida and the Free State of Saxony. This is a lot to discuss in a three-hour event, but this was the point – get the initiation started …

the ball rolling …

for people to take the first step and awaken the interest and motivation.

New Experiences

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With this being a first of its kind, at least for us, there brought on new responsibilities and experiences. Yes, there were challenges, but I like to call them experiences – since I learned so much from them. I had a great opportunity to play a large role in the planning of the event, finding keynote speakers, organizing guests to come to Mittweida, and helping to delegate a team. The pandemic played a role in our Forum.

Even though we planned, from the beginning, for this to be hybrid, new restrictions came days before the event and we had to take stricter precautions and unfortunately some our guests who had planned to visit Mittweida, had to cancel at the last moment.

As in life and with events, there should always be a Plan B. Less than twenty-four hours before the Forum our moderator became ill. So, I put on a new hat and took on the job. For me, in the beginning, it was very nerve racking but at the same time an excellent experience.

Why?

It was not sitting in front of the spotlight the whole time, but it was the closer connection you get with the guest speakers and the audience. You see from the stage all the people working behind the scenes to make it happen and you see the emotions from the audience, which lets you know things are going well or needs to be liven up a bit. So, from these challenges I learned how to navigate quickly to solve problems.

The Idea in Action

The East West Forum welcomed 100 participants online and in person from all over the world. It kicked-off with a welcoming by the Rector of the University of Applied Sciences Mittweida, Magnificence Prof. Dr. Ludwig Hilmer and the President of the State of Saxony Parliament, Dr. Matthias Rößler.

Prof. Dr. Delia Cristina Balaban from the Babeș-Bolyai University of Cluj, Romania, presented the relevance of communication in the globalized world. She stressed the importance of how poor communication can be the root to global problems and provided tips and tricks on being more effective and successful in communicating globally. The participants in the workshop played an interactive role. Through breakout rooms the participants had the opportunity to discuss case studies and share their input from all over the world.

Dr. Nuria Gonzalés Rabanal, University of Leon, Spain, presented the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). How they are perceived and implemented by companies and where the strengths and weaknesses lie in such a strategy. She left the workshop participants with questions to think about in regards to personal responsibility and how they plan to pursue the CSR concept.

The team prepares for the hybrid event.
Prof. Dr. Ramona Kusche moderating the Global Communications workshop.
The organization team

The workshops were followed by a panel discussion on „Opportunities and Challenges of International Cooperation in the Free State of Saxony“. The panel included:  Jan Löffler, Member of the Saxony Parliament; Antje Hermenau, Representative of the State of Saxony Economic Center; Dr. David Michel, Director of the Liaison Office for the Free State of Saxony, Prague, Czech Republic; and Prof. Dr. Serge Velesco, Dean of International Studies at the University of Applied Sciences Mittweida. The panel provided personal experiences and opinions from their side in regards to what Saxony has to offer, does offer as well as the obstacles that are also there. The interchangeable discussion was in depth and enlightening but due to time constraints, unfortunately had to end. This just shows what an important subject this was not only for the panel guests but also for the Forum participants.

Fortunately, we were able to have some of the guests at the University of Applied Sciences Mittweida for three days. During the three-day agenda, it provided the opportunity to discuss teaching strategies, students’ needs, and what we can do to support each other. In some instances, we realized that some areas may be difficult to initiate at this time, but we found other solutions of what can be done.

The Feedback

The feedback from this Forum and the three-day event was positive and inspiring.  Ideas were exchanged for further content for the next Forum and the interest in being involved in future Forums was also immense. Following the Forum, we sat with guests and participants and continued to discuss ways we could build stronger networks and relationships. We had planned a one-hour breakfast meeting, but had so much to discuss and ideas to exchange that it lasted 3 hours. That is what I call building partnerships.

Faculty and Partner University Representatives
Evening tour of Chemnitz
Welcome dinner for international guests

The Success

What did I come away with from this Forum?

Motivation, the contagiousness of their energy and ideas of what can be done or what needs to be done AND that no matter how different things may be in each person ‘s country, we all have the same desire – communication, cooperation, and comradery. I have made connections to where I can further my interest in CSR at partner universities and have been asked to be a guest lecturer for CSR in February 2022.

Another point, from many, that I can take away from the Forum is the importance of teamwork. The team that put this together from Mittweida was dynamic and full of energy. From colleagues to students, each of us had a strength that was put into play to make this so successful. The importance of communication was a key topic of the Forum but I can attest that for teamwork and success to an event – communication is also key.

We definitely met the goals that were thought of in early spring 2021!

The discussions were started, networking was established, partnerships made, intrigue was set in, and planning for collaborations in 2022 was initiated. That was the goal for this Forum.

That is the key to business success.