Martin Price, MYPLACE Project Manager, reflects on a successful kick-off to the project.
For more information on the MYPLACE project, visit the project’s website: HERE
A week on from the big kick-off meeting in the inspiring surroundings of Venice, the dust has settled, and there is time for reflection on events, and the new light the meeting cast on the project and our partners in it.
The first thing that comes to mind is how good it was to finally meet so many of the team who will make MYPLACE a success. With 52 people I now have faces, smiles and handshakes, where before there was only a list of names and e-mail addresses. With many there were also longer chats. Occasionally even over a glass of wine or beer. That’s how bonds are formed where I come from. I think it should almost go without saying that it is considerably easier to achieve great things as part of a team when you have got to know the people you are working with. We will be relying heavily on one another to accomplish the goals of MYPLACE over the next 4 years, so I believe this will just be the beginning of that process.
Another fascinating aspect of the event was the insight I gained into the many challenges we face in this type of project. To those of us more used to national, rather than international projects there was more to learn here. Likewise, for those of us with backgrounds outside Social Research. Obstacles such as spoken languages and the subtleties of local culture are readily apparent. The many different methodological interpretations of our work were, to a newcomer, less anticipated. The most striking, and reassuring thing, however was the spirit in which these challenges were faced. Many discussions and debates occurred on various topics over two and a half days. All of them constructive and all of them with a view to reaching a working agreement. As the reality of the hugely ambitious task we have set ourselves becomes ever clearer, nothing gives greater cause for optimism than this constructive and collegiate attitude, which was evident at the Venice meeting.
On the subject of differing interpretations, as a non-academic member of the team, one of the most intriguing parts of the meeting was the exercise early on Sunday afternoon. Intended as an ice-breaker, to let people get to know other team members and warm up everyone’s brains for the work ahead, the meerting was split into groups of eight and asked to produce, together, a statement of no more than 50 words on what in particular makes MYPLACE really matter to them.
The results in my group were striking. Several suggestions were put forward, principally:
- The aim of encouraging evidence-based policy making.
- The need to establish a self-reflective and undistorted reconciliation with the past.
- A chance to explore phenomena on a local or national level but allowing this to be combined with an opportunity for comparitive analysis with other countries.
All this sounds within the remit of MYPLACE, although I’m sure my group-mates could express this better than I have. Everyone was in agreement that these aspects of the project were exciting and important. There was, however, a range of opinions on which was the single, most important driver for the work.
In part I think this reflects the different experiences and backgrounds of our partners, partly that the question was essentially too personal to allow a single, group-wide view, and partly the complex and multi-faceted nature of the project.
Often in project management I could be concerned by subtle variations in motive. Here though, I was convinced above all that everyone present was committed to delivering answers to all the project’s research questions. With a team of this quality, and with the enthusiasm and team spirit on show in Venice, I have no doubt that we will get there.
I’m looking forward more than ever to working with all our partners to make MYPLACE a real success.