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Making It Work with One Meeting

[30.03.2021]

How can we make international collaboration as sustainable and agile as possible? The One Meeting Project, coordinated by the FernUniversität, explores this question.


A woman sits at a monitor and watches a video conference Photo: pixelfit/E+/Getty Images
Good for the environment? Virtual meetings often make plane trips unnecessary. However, it is important to pay attention to environmental issues when choosing digital tools as well.

In a globalized world, international collaboration is essential. It also has a price, though: Every flight produces greenhouse gases, every meeting abroad uses resources, and at the moment every in-person contact means a health risk. As a result, “Less is more!” is often the rule for international cooperation, a motto which the cooperative One Meeting Project (or ONE for short) has taken to heart. The new project is coordinated by the FernUniversität in Hagen and has the goal of optimizing international work processes. In order to do this, ONE searches for new ways to condense international teamwork into a single in-person meeting. To compensate for this change, the quality of virtual communication must increase. The project aims to make international projects more agile and environmentally friendly – and at the same time to keep them socially responsible.

The coronavirus crisis has upended the ways that people work together across borders. According to Prof. Dr. Eva Cendon, FernUni researcher and head of the ONE consortium, two central questions arise from this situation: “How do international projects adapt to unpredictable situations?” And in light of this readjustment, which was necessary even before the crisis: “How can good international cooperation be made more sustainable?” Prof. Cendon’s Chair of Continuing Education & Teaching and Learning works closely together with the FernUniversität’s International Office to coordinate the project. They rapidly found partners throughout Europe – ranging from other distance learning universities to private partners in the educational sector (see the infobox below). The European Commission cofinances ONE through the Erasmus+ program.

Knowledge, Tools, and Setting the Course

ONE aims to help international projects get on the right track, but at the same time it is itself an international project. “Basically, we are our own trial balloon,” Eva Cendon explained. Using the lessons learned through their own experimental collaboration, the members want to achieve a series of results that can be applied to other projects. “First we want to raise awareness for our topic,” the FernUni researcher summarized. Second, they plan to create a toolbox of sustainable and user-friendly tools to make virtual exchange easier. “Third, we want to develop a freely accessible guide which explains how to get by with only one meeting.”

Because it is the only one, this in-person meeting must be all the more productive. This is no small task. The One Meeting Project plans to gather and share knowledge about this as well. For Cendon it is clear: “Intercultural exchange is very central to international projects. It’s important to get to know one another personally and to get a feel for one another. That’s why the one meeting should have a special significance.”

Photo: FernUniversität
Prof. Eva Cendon is internationally active as a researcher. Her day-to-day work was also drastically impacted by the coronavirus crisis.

Target Groups in Research and Education

But who exactly is ONE for? At the moment, the focus is primarily on teaching and research in higher education. “We are looking at four target groups in this area,” Cendon said. “First, International Offices at universities.” They are central points of contact for most international projects and have access to important funding bodies, networks, and infrastructures. “The second group is people like me: heads of international projects.” They are responsible, for example, for planning, applications, management, and communication.

Third, ONE wants to address the management of higher education institutions. In the best case, this can result in a change to an entire institution’s thinking, for example with regard to travel or digital work. “The last step is about larger European stakeholders. They have an interest in the efficiency or financing of projects, for example.” Funding bodies like the European Commission could make resources that are freed up, which otherwise might be used on expenses such as travel, available to funded projects in other ways. ONE would like to provide advising for the future on this as well.

Project Partners

The members of The ONE Meeting Project, in addition to the FernUniversität in Hagen, are the European university continuing education network eucen, the Italian Università di Milano-Bicocca, the Spanish Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, the Finnish University of Jyväskylä, and the private education companies momentum and canice consulting.

LeAnn Kearney | 08.04.2021