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Minutes of the first meeting (Lousã, Portugal)

Thursday, 5th November

The participants arrived in Lousã via different routes.

All partners met in a local restaurant for a welcome session from the host. A cultural evening of sharing food and drink typical of each participating country was very successful in allowing the partners to meet informally and get to know each other.

The local community had arranged for traditional dances in local costumes that also was an excellent way for the partners to relax and get to know their fellow participants.

Friday, 6th November

Introductory Session

The morning session started with an official welcome by Ana Amaral on behalf of Arte Via, the host organisation, and Kevin Harrington on behalf of the co-ordinating organisation.

Each participating organisation then gave a short presentation about their organisation. These presentations lasted for about 8 minutes each. They gave an overview of the participating organisations.

It was agreed that this was an important part of the project as each partner gained an understanding of the expertise that was being brought to the project, as well as the context in which each partner operates. It was agreed that each presentation would be included on the project’s website.

Workshop 1 – Confirmation of Project Aims

This workshop was concerned with making sure that all the participants were clear on the aims and scope of the project. The project co-ordinator gave a short overview of the aims of the project as they were stated in the project proposal submitted to the National Agencies in February 2009.

The participants were then asked to break into small groups and discuss the following questions about the project’s objectives:

  1. Please examine each objective in turn. What do you think each objective means?
  2. Do you agree with each of the objectives? Is there any way we could make them clearer/better.
  3. Consider each objective in turn. Is the approach we have described in the application clear for each objective? Is there anything you don’t understand?
  4. Can you suggest any other approaches to achieving each objective?
  5. Do you have any other comments/suggestions about the project objectives?

Each group discussed these questions for about 30 minutes. The participants then re-convened in a plenary session and each group gave feedback on their discussions. The general consensus was that the objectives were clear and all participants understood them. There was also general consensus about the approach to be adapted for each objective.

Workshop 2 – Team Building Workshop

There then followed a short workshop in which the participants were given a short demonstration of Portuguese dancing. The partners were also invited to participate in the dancing, which many did. There followed a short demonstration of local arts and crafts. There was general agreement that this workshop was very enjoyable and helped to develop good team spirit among the partners. However, there was some concern that it broke the momentum of the morning’s work and it may have worked better if was later in the day.

Workshop 3 – Finalise and Document Work Plan for Project

The workshop after lunch was focussed on agreeing a clear work plan for the next two years. The discussion in this session was led by the project co-ordinator and Jonathan Borg. The participants were asked to examine the timeline submitted in the application and to consider the following questions:

  1. Is this timeline okay? Maybe it’s too ambitious. Perhaps it’s not ambitious enough. What do you think?
  2. Do you think that there are some important things/tasks missing from this timeline?
  3. Is the division of tasks okay? Do some partners have too many tasks? Do some partners not have enough? Can you suggest ways in which we can improve the division of tasks?
  4. Do any of the partners have skills that are not being used at the moment that could help make the project better?
  5. What is the best way of making sure that we meet our targets/deadlines?

After considerable discussion a Gantt chart was developed in the workshop that listed:

  • all tasks to be carried out during the lifetime of the project
  • who was responsible for these tasks
  • when these tasks were to be completed

The following schedule was produced:

Project schedule (34.4 KiB)

Workshop 4 – Effective Communication for the Project

The focus of this workshop was how we can communicate effectively over the course of the project. Again, the partners were broken into smaller groups and asked to consider the following questions:

  1. What is the most effective way/ways of communicating during the project?
  2. How often should communication take place?
  3. How can we help those whose first language is not English?
  4. Who do we promote our project to others (dissemination). Are the ideas in part 5.11 of the application enough? Are there any other suggestions?
  5. Do you have any other suggestions how we can improve communications?

In plenary session, each group fed back their discussion. The main points were:

The most effective means of communication: E-mails, Skype and bulletin board/discussion groups on the website were felt to be the most effective means of communication. There was some concern though at the quantity of e-mails that was being sent. It was agreed that a lot of content should be transferred to the discussion board on the website and e-mail would be used for more specific topics. Partners were also urged to use the discussion board more frequently – each partner should try to check it at least once a week.

In relation to e-mails, it was agreed that when sending e-mails, partners will start the subject of the e-mail with LET’S to help make it more identifiable. It was also important for all partners to respond to e-mails. How often should communication take place?: It was generally agreed that, at the moment, there are too many e-mails. However, when the discussion forum on the website is fully up and running the amount of e-mails being sent should be reduced. It was also accepted that there will be times during the life of the project – such as coming up to meetings – that the volume of e-mails will be high.

It was also agreed that the coordinator will issue a quarterly report on developments on the project. This report will include things such as a report on local activities etc. This will be a short report and the first one will be produced after the Malta workshop. It will be important that each partner keeps the coordinator informed of activities at a local level so that he can compile this report.

Language issues: It was suggested that for all future meetings it will be important to have someone from each partner who is competent in English. However, it was agreed that who each partner brings to each workshop is ultimately their decision. It was strongly recommended to use more visual aids, such as Powerpoint, to help participants understand what was being discussed. It was also important for each participant to speak slowly and to use simple English. Google translator was also suggested as being a useful in translating e-mails etc. It was also suggested to have a short summary of the project on Wikipedia – perhaps as an example of Grundtvig Learning Partnerships.

Workshop 5 – Developing the Project Website

This session was led by Lukáš Richterek. The topic for this workshop was the development and content of the project website. Following a general discussion, the following were the main points in relation to the website:

  • It was agreed that the development of the website would be the responsibility of the Czech and Romanian partners.
  • It was agreed that we would use a free hosting service as that meant that the website would have a lifespan beyond that of the project.

The following were suggested for the website:

  • Forum
  • Google calendar
  • Profiles of institutions
  • The main language will be English, but there will be a summary in each participating language
  • It may be possible to use Google translator to translate it into each language
  • There should be a private member’s area
  • There should be a link to each member’s institution
  • Include a download section for PDF’s
  • Develop a section for useful links
  • Have a small News section
  • Have a section for case studies of best practice
  • Counter for statistics

It was agreed that a sample website would be prepared by the Czech and Romanian partners within the next few weeks.

Following photographs and thank-you speeches, the workshop then concluded.