Societal Impact Awards for two VU humanities projects

April 24, 2024

As part of the VU profile theme Connected World, the Societal Impact Award has been awarded to humanities researchers Fokke Gerritsen and Laura Rupp. Fokke Gerritsen’s project, Water Memories, aims to address modern sustainability challenges through a heritage walk, harnessing the historical water structures of Istanbul reflecting its Byzantine and Ottoman heritage. Laura Rupp’s project addresses English learning challenges faced by girls from slum- and rural areas in India, aiming to empower girls as mentors for guiding others. The Societal Impact Award comes with a sum of €10,000. 

Water Memories

VU researcher Fokke Gerritsen leads the Water Memories project that aims to unlock Istanbul’s water heritage through a walking app. As the capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, Istanbul is particularly rich in aqueducts, cisterns, water towers, fountains, and other witnesses to the historic water supply through the ages. The best way to experience this heritage is by exploring it on foot, as it gives a sense of how these monuments are connected in space and time.

At the same time, a key question is how this heritage can contribute to issues of sustainability, livability and social cohesion in today’s city, where a water crisis due to population growth and climate change is drawing close. A heritage walk that will be included in KarDes, a popular mobile app, can increase public awareness and appreciation of water past in present. The aim is to have the walk online by the end of the year. Read more.

“English Pronunciation in a Global World” Mentorship Programme

VU researcher Laura Rupp developed a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), “English Pronunciation in a Global World”, teaching more than 100,000 learners worldwide, how to understand the wide variety of accents in English and to speak more understandably themselves.

However, for people with minimal English education, it is too big a challenge to attend and complete the MOOC on their own. One such group that faces independent English learning difficulties are slum- and rural area-based girls in India. In collaboration with the NGO Sakhi Education for Girls, the proposed project addresses these challenges by aiming to empower five Sakhi girls as guiding mentors for other girls from slum- and rural areas. VU-student assistants will facilitate guiding mentorship skills, creating a sustainable cycle in which Sakhi mentors pass on their guiding mentorship skills to the next generation.

About the Societal Impact Award – VU Connected World

The Societal Impact Award is expected to be a yearly award that grants socially oriented impact projects of €10.000,- each and offers additional support. The Award is part of VU Connected World profile theme that aims to give researchers sufficient space and time to develop socially oriented ideas and put them into practice, varying from an art project, a citizen initiative to the development of a social app.

The Societal Impact Award offers monetary contributions to projects up to €10,000, as well as organization support in the form of a kickoff event at the beginning of the project involving various stakeholders such as the Connected World team, VU IXA-GO, DURF and Communication & Marketing; an interim evaluation halfway through the project in which the different projects share their initial findings with each other; a closing event where the projects present their outcomes at the annual CW summer event.