Project partners met over two days for the official project kick-off in Leeds, UK. There were the usual administrative details to agree on, as well as how we would work and communicate as a team.
We discussed project outcomes and how we will achieve them. Like any good project, we will start with a round of research to make sure our later activities are spot on and meet the needs of those we design for: autistic university students, careers advisors working within higher education institutions, academics and employers.
Planning will continue until Christmas and then in the New Year we will start a series of interviews across Europe, as well as a mapping survey of all stakeholders to better understand the challenges and examples of good practice that exist.
One of the interesting things about European projects is finding out about the small differences in how organisations operate in other countries. An example is GDPR, the EU’s new data protection directive. The need to comply with GDPR sparked a number of discussions as it affects what data we collect, how we store it, where we store it, and how we move it between partners. Some partners are not allowed to use commercial file sharing services, others have strict rules about encrypting email attachments. Likewise, ethics approval procedures differ and handling data whilst keeping participants informed are important ethical considerations. Navigating these challenges for all partners can add weeks if not months to a project – before the first research activity is even allowed to start.
But the main purpose of the kick-off meeting was to get to know all the project partners in person, get to work together effectively and have some enjoyable social time. And this is what we did!
To paraphrase Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca: I think this is the beginning of a beautiful partnership.