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Dialogue Workshop

In 2007 the University of Freiburg launched a project for organizational development that is unique in the German higher education landscape – and presumably in the world as well: the Congress on the Future.

The “Humboldt Laboratory” is an innovation and dialogue workshop that encourages dialogue processes at the University of Freiburg with regularly recurring communication forums, such as conferences and workshops with a changing array of participants from the areas of governance, administration, teaching, research, and knowledge transfer. The dialogue and innovation workshop was named the “Humboldt Laboratory” in order to stress the open-ended, experimental nature of the dialogue processes: Wilhelm von Humboldt’s treatise “Theory of Human Education” is one of the most influential “white papers” on academic education. The term “laboratory” refers to the thought experiments necessary for a dialogue-based organizational development of the kind intended by the project.

The process of refining the university’s mission statement is a superordinate “meta-process” that includes all events and dialogue processes initiated by the Innovation and Dialogue Workshop.

We do not understand our university’s mission statement as an unchangeable, static construct. Rather, the mission statement should also be viewed as a process. Thus, our mission statement is in a state of continuous development. On the one hand, we want to give as many employees and students of the university as possible the opportunity to take part in the mission statement process. On the other hand, this dialogue process enables us to continually develop the mission statement, i.e., the university’s documented self-concept, and adapt it to meet new challenges.

In this way, the University of Freiburg is making itself into a learning organization. The result is a strong, dynamic university culture that makes use of the knowledge and experience of faculty, staff, and students as well as external partners.