In this blog, we want to share the experience of kicking off our very first EU-funded Erasmus+ Capacity Building project. This is a short-cut to what happens before, during and after a kick-off, when a project is launched to the people involved in it.
Before the kick-off
A successful kick-off meeting is crucial for getting an efficient start for a project. In the case of our SUCSESS project**, it meant many weeks of preparations booking flight tickets and restaurants, but most of all, coming up with an interesting programme focusing on the key themes of the project. We decided to have the kick-off quickly after the official start of the project in mid-January. The planning team started to meet regularly in November, almost 4 months before the kick-off. Especially the uncertainties surrounding the fate of Erasmus funding amidst Brexit (and us having a UK partner in the project) made the situation stressful.
The week before the kick-off some of us were busy attending the grant holder meeting organised by the European Commission together with the university co-ordinating activities in the target country, in this case University of Johannesburg. The team members staying in Porvoo finished the last details such as negotiating the menu for the get-together dinner as well as the revising the schedule for the guest speakers.
Nevertheless, by the time our South African partners from Johannesburg, Pretoria and Zululand as well as the Brits and representatives from Oulu finally arrived in Porvoo during the first week of February, all was set and the project was ready for the kick-off. The only thing missing was the snow our visitors so yearned to experience.
During the kick-off
The actual kick-off week meant two full days of discussions and presentations of the different work packages and EU requirements but also just as much focus on getting to know each other and each other’s pedagogical approaches. The idea was to learn about the current approaches and to identify any gaps between those used in Europe and RSA to get an understanding of the project’s starting point, how can the co-operation between students, higher institute staff and external stakeholders such as companies be intensified? During two long days of presentations and discussions we made sure we had cinnamon buns and Runeberg tarts during the coffee breaks and a taste of reindeer, as well.
The third meeting day we spent in Helsinki. On our Pasila campus, the participants found out about Haaga-Helia’s co-operation with businesses and industry organisations as well as the opportunities offered by our Start-Up School. We also squeezed in a presentation by an alumni at the Allas Sea Pool (no one dared to take a dip in the pools in the Arctic weather) as well as an interesting visit to the Suomenlinna sea fortress, which has often offered valuable real-life projects for our students.
After the kick-off
This is where the real work starts. First of all, a project needs its visual identity and a webpage as well as, communication and quality plans. Second, extensive research is conducted to find out the existing challenges and good practices related to employability and the HEI – enterprise co-operation in all partner countries.
As the main objective of the kick-off meeting was to make all partners aware of the different work packages of the project, we really hope that everyone now has an understanding of the expected outcomes of the SUCSESS project as well as of the requirements of EU when it comes to documentation, reporting and dissemination.
We look forward to a fruitful and meaningful cooperation with our three partner universities in South Africa as well as with the European partner schools of University of Oulu and Sheffield Hallam University.
** A major challenge in the Republic of South Africa is the employability of graduates. The Erasmus+ SUCSESS project, initiated by an international consortium, aims to tackle this challenge by strengthening the knowledge triangle, i.e. the co-operation between the business sector and higher education institutions’ (HEI) staff and students. The project focus is on innovating solutions for students to gain competences required by the businesses already during their studies. Partners in the project are University of Johannesburg, University of Pretoria and University of Zululand in RSA as well as Sheffield-Hallam University in the UK and University of Oulu in Finland – all educators in tourism and hospitality.
SUCSESS – Strengthening university-enterprise cooperation in South Africa to support regional development by enhancing lifelong learning skills, social innovations and inclusivity. Read more about the project here: http://www.haaga-helia.fi/en/sucsess?userLang=en . Eva Holmberg is the project manager of the project and you can contact her by email firstname.lastname@example.org.