torstai 29. maaliskuuta 2018

Learntech Accelerator Kicks-off

Two weeks ago was one of the most challenging working weeks of my life so far.
 It was time for me to step into the shoes (or in my case skirt!) of coordinator for the first time in my European projects working history.

To make things more difficult - the Description of Action, which is like the bible of the EU projects, said that the kick off shall be organised in Brussels - not in, let's say Jyväskylä, which would have made things a lot easier for this first-time coordinator...
So the new project, Learntech Accelerator, or as we call it "LEA", is about innovative procurement of learning technologies and in a nutshell, about how the supply & demand can come together and make something new in this market.
 The 'Mother' of this project is of course Ellinor Wallin, IMAILE's project manager and coordinator, who has now trusted me with her 'baby'...
 Even though LEA bases on IMAILE, which I have been the technical manager for about 18 last months of it and 9/17 partners were the same, it was still a room of mostly unfamiliar faces to me... Many partners have changed staff - that is pretty normal in software projects as well as universities of course, that people come and go. Throughout my working life, I have been blessed to work with hundreds of people. This kind of change of a working climate has it's challenges as well as opportunities.
Personally I find kick-off meetings very exciting. You get to meet a lot of new people and of course in the case of LEA, it was looking at 35 experts of their own areas in the room: So much competence all around which gave me a lot of confidence that this project will absolutely make great results, no doubt about that.
 In our consortium, we have experts on procurement, learning technologies, schools, law, contracts, procedures, policies etc. Procurement is a complicated process and it requires different fields of expertise coming together to ensure smart decision making.
 One of the key issues on why procurement of learning technologies is such a hard process is that the buyer and the user are almost never the same person. The chain of software/hardware development and purchase could for example be modeled like this:

Developer -> Seller -> Buyer (municipality, school etc.) -> User (teacher, student)

Then we come to the challenge of how to get this whole line of people to talk the same language, to understand what they say to each other...
 I am in favor of meetings where people discuss & work rather than sit behind their computers.
 This is why I had told my wp leaders that they have to use their time wisely and get the consortium active and away from their email. This is somewhat of a unique situation when the whole consortium is together. It will only happen six times during the project duration, so this means that we should be utilizing this time to actually contribute towards the work, not just sit there writing emails (which often is the case if a project meeting is not very well organised).
I was very happy with LEA's kick off.
 We worked hard for three days.
 Learned to get to know each other and established some common expectations of what this project will be about.
In European projects, there is always many levels of agendas going on. Companies want to sell and network. Researchers want to study and gather data. Managers want to get the reports done etc.
Picture (c) Ellinor Wallin
 It's good to keep in mind that people have perhaps many levels of agendas in mind when they come to a meeting. Coordinator's job is not to destroy all the levels, but to align enough of them in order to get the work done described in our project bible, the Description of Action, or DoA.
 Organizing a meeting isn't really that easy. 16hour days for 5 days in a row took it's toll, I was exhausted when the week was finally over. I literately had time to go for two walks of 30minutes in the Grande Place of Brussels.  Next meeting will be more relaxing, I have promised myself:) I am however now very excited of LEA as I see that the team is very strong and competent. Thank you WP leaders and participants of making this Kick-off happen. Let's do this!

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