Cooperation and co-creation with European and international partners under the conditions of the pandemic

FIAP cooperates in its research activities with numerous partners in Germany, in Europe – Greece, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland – and also outside Europe, for example with partners in Iran and Brazil. The pandemic poses special challenges for all those involved worldwide.

The individual home countries of our project partners are affected by the Corona virus to varying degrees, the different governments have their own strategies for dealing with the pandemic, with very different consequences for the respective populations and thus also for our contact persons. A Skype meeting with the contact person in Andalusia makes it clear to us what it means when Corona leads to multiple infections and deaths in one’s own village and among acquaintances, when the immediate surroundings seem to have died out. The partners in Greece also report about harsh restrictions on freedoms and their worries about the future. One can very well understand the hardships and fears and yet have similar problems. Often it helps to talk about the current situation in Corona – before the professional event comes into focus – and to share the concerns of the partners with each other. Sometimes you realise that you are complaining at a high level, especially in Germany.

Cooperation with foreign partners also always means – for both sides – dealing with other ways of thinking and working, benefiting from heterogeneity and respecting and making good use of diversity in the joint development of tools and concepts for implementing the project idea. Co-creative, networked and non-hierarchical cooperation is the goal of FIAP and all participants in the project work with the partners. It helps, especially at the beginning of a project, to get to know each other personally, to “get to know each other”, what makes the partners tick. Face-to-face is always easier, it helps if you see each other, and if you go out in the evening, for example, after work and in a relaxed atmosphere. But the mutual visit to the project partner, otherwise the best possibility for the first exchange, is unfortunately not possible at the moment. Face-to-face currently takes place with digital support and technology. The use and testing of innovative communication, cooperation and learning tools is also gaining ground in international cooperation. Electronic whiteboards and pinboards, team meetings via appropriate software (Zoom, MS Teams), digital learning platforms and tools for surveys.

As with the work within the FIAP team, this is a process of getting used to and learning. Everyone involved is open and willing to learn, everyone wants to make the best out of this difficult situation for the goals of the respective projects. The digitalisation boost from Corona is clearly noticeable; from meeting to meeting, the technology works better because it learns along with them. But the new formats and communication rules are also better accepted in the teams, and everyone involved is becoming more courageous. New training concepts with the use of experiences and installations of Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) have to be developed and tested – and make everyone curious. And there are also opportunities for getting to know each other personally and talking outside of the official appointments. Before, during or after the meetings, private impressions are often still exchanged and contacts made in the chats.

Another positive aspect is that the meetings and events are much better attended, even by people whose schedules do not normally allow it. The quick change between the conference in Berlin and the workshop in Athens, Cadiz or Tehran can be managed quite easily at the desk.

Cooperation and co-creation with international partners is definitely a challenge in the Corona pandemic, but everyone involved has accepted this challenge and sees the new tasks as an opportunity to intensify and reshape cooperation and produce innovative results. And at some point, a face-to-face meeting will be possible again – we are looking forward to it all the more now.