IGLUS History

IGLUS is an action-research program that seeks to contribute to the better governance of increasingly
larger, increasingly complex and increasingly dynamic urban systems. 

how was ıglus formed ın tıme?

Maxime AUDOUIN, PhD

When I joined the IGLUS project, only three modules had happened (Guadalajara 2014, Istanbul 2014 and Honk-Kong 2014). At that time Prof. Finger was looking for someone motivated to take care of the recruitment of future IGLUS candidates and this is where my IGLUS journey started. While still completing my master degree at EPFL, I was tasked with designing and implementing a new recruitment strategy to guarantee the success of the program. Working closely with IGLUS program coordinator Mohamad Razaghi, and with a little team of other EPFL master students, we succeeded in having urban practitioners sign up to the program, which guaranteed the continuation of the masters. This is also at that time that we managed to have Veolia become join us and be the first of our partner companies to sponsor some of our students.

Thanks to my results in fall 2014, Prof. Finger offered me to go to Seoul (Korea) for my spring 2015 semester where I would complete my master thesis while organizing the June 2015 IGLUS Seoul module, in partnership with Sungkyunkwan University. Thrilled by the idea to study abroad for a semester and to get more involved into IGLUS, I gladly accepted the offer and departed for Korea in February 2015. Getting used to Korean working culture was not as easy as we would have thought and we were glad to have someone “on the ground” to coordinate activities linked with the upcoming Seoul module, which proved a success according to participants and organizers. It is also during this module that we managed to sign a MoU with CityNet for future modules in Korea.

I then jointly organized with Mohamad the September 2015 Dortmund module, and then officially took over him, becoming the second coordinator of the history of IGLUS.  As we had continued our recruitment strategy during 2015, we had a whole new batch of students, mostly from latin America, join the IGLUS program in the November 2015 IGLUS Mexico module, which was the first module I organized on my own. It is during this module that we proposed our vision of urban systems performance based on resilience, sustainability and efficiency and that we shed light on the importance of considering the interactions between infrastructure systems when thinking about urban governance. Ultimately, it is during the 2015 Mexico module that I met with IGLUS candidate Umut Tuncer, who ultimately became IGLUS program coordinator in 2018.

Even though the 2015 IGLUS Mexico module was a success, we started facing issues regarding the number of students enrolled in the program shortly after. One of the characteristics of the IGLUS program is that it is built on a rolling basis and that students have 2 years to follow 5 modules. It is great for participants as it gives them flexibility, but it necessitates having a high number of enrolled candidates for organizers to guarantee a viable number of students in each module.

As we had stopped our recruitment campaign after Mexico 2015, we ended up with a low number of participants in our January 2016 Dubai module, which pushed us to think about new ways to recruit students. At that time we understood that the best way to think about IGLUS was to consider it as a three sided platform, linking students, lecturers and companies, and that we had perhaps underestimated the work needed regarding the students side of the platform.

Fortunately, as we had been developing a MOOC about the management of urban infrastructures that was to be released on Coursera in February 2016, we decided to use our MOOC to gain visibility for the master, and developed a case study competition as part of the online course, to get more IGLUS candidates. The MOOC was a real success as it gave us huge visibility. Thus, we got more people interested to join the program. Although we did not clearly see the impact of the MOOC in the April 2016 Istanbul module, we were back on track for our June 2016 Seoul module. And it is really in the September 2016 US module that we got to harness the benefits of our MOOC. Quite some new students joined the program at that time and the number of applications kept rising. For that reason we decided to develop a follow-up MOOC on the management of Smart cities (being one of the key topics in IGLUS), where we adopted the same strategy of running a case study competition. This second MOOC, which was released in February 2017, also gave us qualified candidates, which contributed in raising the quality of the program.

The November 2016 IGLUS Dortmund-Barcelona module was the last one I organized as project coordinator. We had decided to split the European module between Dortmund and Barcelona as we thought interesting to compare both metropolitan entities rather than spending two weeks in Dortmund. After that I handed over to Mohamad again, and stayed involved in IGLUS by working on the MOOCs as well as still supervising some IGLUS master thesis.

Mohamad RAZAGHI, PhD

I took the flight at mid-night to Istanbul in early June 2012. Landed at Sabiha Gökçen airport in Istanbul early in the morning and headed towards Café Sitare in the Asian part of the city to visit Prof. Finger for the first time. I had responded to PhD position he was offering at EPFL, in Switzerland. But visas for Switzerland were difficult to get, so we opted for liberal Turkey to meet. Excited for the interview, I was rehearsing my lines when Matthias came in and said: “they don’t offer breakfast here today! Shall we go somewhere else?”

We sat in a cozy local cafe and Matthias walked me through what he had in mind: an interdisciplinary research project accompanied by an executive master program for city practitioners to help them better understand and make decisions to deal with the complexities at the intersection of technology, politics, economics, social dynamics and environment.

The idea was bold and making it work was far from being trivial; the project was not moving fast enough for the past two years and he was looking for a new person expected to bring fresh energy and perspectives to get things to the operational phase. We discussed for 2-3 hours and we decided that I can help. And that was my starting point with IGLUS.

Three months later, I was at EPFL and we started to work on the project around the clock. It took us almost 12 months to have a clear research agenda and a ready for market executive master program. The result of the hard work of the core team and our partners in World Bank, UN-Habitat, universities and companies was the official start of the IGLUS Executive Master program in June 2014. The first module re-assured us: we understood that our partners will work and make a great contribution to the urban development research and practice agenda. After Guadalajara-México, we had the next modules in Istanbul, Hong Kong, Detroit, Seoul and Dortmund. These modules were indeed cycles of our Action-Research project that helped us to both develop the IGLUS framework further and fine-tune our pedagogical approach in the executive master program. The number of institutional partners grew, recruitments became a more steady flow and it was time for us to think about the next phase of the project.

In the next phase, we focused on expanding our research agenda and the outreach of educational activities. A turning point in this phase was probably when we decided to develop the Management of Urban Infrastructures MOOC with Matthias. The MOOC was a great success and led us to prepare a second MOOC on Smart Cities.

In 2017, I finished my PhD at EPFL and subsequently had to leave IGLUS to start a new job, but the journey that Matthias  and I had started continued with great help and dedication from a new the team, specially Maxime and Umut, along with the ecosystem that was shaped around IGLUS. The idea that was developed in a cozy  cafe in Istanbul was now a global research and education project that involved dozens of institutional partners, tens of students and alumni who grew with IGLUS executive Master program and many thousand learners who, through our MOOCs, benefited from the result of the hard work of everyone in the team.

During five years, I have completed my PhD research on IGLUS and have spent an amazing time with a group of outstanding people to turn a bold idea into a great success, under leadership of Matthias.

 

Our Story

Over the Years

^
2011

First ideas

Executive Master on Urban Utilities

^
2014

Launch of Executive Master’s 

First IGLUS module in Mexico

^
2015

Publications

First IGLUS Quarterly

^
2015

Executive Master’s 

New modules in Istanbul, Detroit, Chicago, Hong Kong, Seoul and Dubai

^
2016

NEW online training

Managing Urban Infrastructures MOOC*

^
2016

Executive Master’s 

New modules in Barcelona, Dortmund and New York

^
2017

NEW  online training

Smart Cities MOOC

^
2017

Executive Master’s 

New module in Kuala Lumpur

^
2018

Executive Master’s 

New modules in Kampala and Lyon

^
2019

Executive Master’s 

New modules in Singapore, St. Petersburg, Moscow and Delhi

^
2020

NEW online training

Innovative Governance of Large Urban Systems MOOC

^
2020

Executive Master’s 

New modules in Nairobi, Bogota and Baranquilla

IGLUS systemic approach: collective problem solving

City

Industry

Urban Challanges

Local Experts

Academia

Global Experts

Dimensions of urban challenges

Cross-cutting issues

  • Smart cities and digitalization
  • Governance
  • Financing
  • Private sector partnerships
  • Citizen participation

Infrastructures

  • Mobility
  • Energy
  • Water and wastewater
  • Waste
  • Housing and urban renewal
  • Green infrastructures