Are we really having a face-to-face meeting? Amazing’ This was the main feeling when starting the VIVID-T meeting on 28th September, at the Abilis Foundation Headquarters in Helsinki. After 18 months of remote meetings using Zoom and Teams it felt almost unreal to meet in person. Several participants also remotely attended, so it was somehow ‘hybrid’.
VIVID-T is a two-year project, ending in December 2021, with the aim of creating a community of practice among EU organisations working towards disability inclusion in humanitarian action and volunteering. The project is represented by seven Consortium partners from five EU countries: Abilis Foundation (Finland), ASPEm (Italy), CBM Ireland, European Disability Forum (Belgium), Viatores Christi (Ireland) and Tearfund Ireland.
As the project will soon come to its end, we met in Helsinki to assess its achievements. Kathy Al´Jubeh from CBM Global facilitated the meeting´s first day. She used the ‘Glad, Mad, Sad’ method: ‘Glad’ for helping to capture and celebrate our successes, ‘Mad, for identifying the areas we need to improve, do differently, and ‘Sad’ for those issues beyond our control that we need to let go. And, as we were in Finland, we celebrated the Glads by tasting some Finnish chocolates and black salty liquorice, salmiakki (whether or not everyone liked it is another story). After lively discussions we mutually agreed those areas, we need to work on and then after letting go of the Sads, we spent the afternoon turning the ‘Mads’ into positive and practical next steps. Some of which can still be addressed in the remainder of the project and others as part of our longer strategic visioning forward as consortium partners. The second day of the meeting was spent discussing ‘Volunteers with disabilities within the new European Solidarity Corps (ESC) guidelines’, as well as inclusive budgeting and remote monitoring.
On the photo Kathy Al´Jubeh is presenting the ‘Glad, Mad, Sad’ method.
Nowadays, when ICT technology and hybrid meetings got so much attention we need to ensure that such gatherings are accessible for everyone. In preparation of our physical VIVID-T meeting with the consortium members, we spent some time thinking about practical aspects to ensure people could also access the event remotely. For example, we looked at how can we do group work and presentations in a way that allows everyone to attend and participate equally? During our physical meeting with the VIVID-T consortium, we used a moving camera to zoom close, so that people who read lips can follow the conversation. Additional microphones helped remote participants to hear better and follow the discussion more easily. Providing live captioning and sign language interpretation were also an option, but we didn´t need to use those in this meeting since no one requested it.
We used a company called Special Media to arrange the technical logistics in our hybrid meeting to reduce our own stress. A lesson learnt is that you always need to have a plan B, and a plan C when it comes to technology (sometimes even a plan D!). After the first meeting day´s and a morning very stressful, everything went smoothly, and everyone was able to participate equally.
The two days of meeting in Helsinki were very intense (we even managed to fit the Finnish sauna in the evening program!) and tiresome, but extremely fruitful. And ah, it was so refreshing to meet all those people face to face!
On behalf of whole Finnish team,