University of Porto ESSA International Seminar, Portugal

On May 30 and 31 2019, the “ESSA (European Students Sustainability Auditing) International Seminar” took place at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences of the University of Porto.

The Porto seminar intended to present and discuss ESSA, but also to generate a vivid debate around social responsibility and how universities can assume a more active role in this domain.

On day one, ESSA team members presented the rationale, but also the main achievements and effects of the project so far. Then, using a round table format, ESSA facilitators and ESSA student auditors talked about their experiences. Facilitators underlined the novelty of this role (as the majority were staff members) and how training the students was, in fact, a huge learning experience for themselves. The student auditors (representatives from each of the training cohorts) shared the challenges of auditing with colleagues from diverse cultural backgrounds, using a foreign language and in the context of a different university with specific rules and ways of being and acting – and doing all this in just a week!!! However, they all stressed how much they learned with the experiences and the potential of this student-led real-world learning approach to social responsibility. 

On the second day, the seminar included presentations of University Social Responsibility experiences at the national level and of social responsibility projects promoted by public institutions, such as the Red Cross and the Municipality of Santa Maria da Feira. 

The dynamics of the seminar clearly fostered the active involvement of all participants in the discussion and sharing of USR experiences – it was a really nice way of symbolically closing ESSA at the University of Porto.