TESS project – an interface of disciplines, cultures and places
It’s said that at root EU is a peace project: it brings together Europeans that would not have otherwise met, encountered and learnt from each other. This is very much true when thinking about EU funded projects, which before anything call for cooperation (instead of doing things alone). First one has to set up a convincing international consortium, which often brings together not only various kinds of organisations from various countries but also disciplines and cultures. Virtually all this means that each participating member complements the ensemble, and together partners form an interesting setting of competence and experience.
TESS project is about to be wrapped up soon. It has been funded by 7th Framework Programme, and it has been the very first “framework project” in our organisation, in Oulu University of Applied Sciences (OUAS). Therefore, the partnership in TESS was very much welcomed and raised attention, not only within OUAS, but also by other similar organizations as Finnish universities of applied sciences are not typically research-, but practice-oriented institutes. However, we were very familiar with the main theme of the project, i.e. social sustainability, as issues of sustainability are enhanced on daily basis in our institute and also in various fields of businesses of OUAS (like from the rural development perspective or within the context of social and health care).
We were very thrilled with this new opportunity, for many reasons. In TESS we have had a privilege to be engaged with European and international research culture. Making multidisciplinary international research is not a piece of cake. Quite often one thinks that those with most fluent English have the strongest position in international co-operation, which is only partly true. What TESS project highlighted was our cultural differences, and provided yet another learning experience to us all. Decision-making of what is considered research-wise important and significant is very often challenging even in one’s own mother tongue, let alone doing it in an international research group that comprises various academic aims and priorities. But with open-minded work package leaders and project co-ordinators everything is possible, and in the end everyone has a say.
All of us took part in data collection that brought us closer to the actual community-based initiatives, the TESS cases, but also gave us a chance to experience internationally organised data collection, analysis and writing. We believe that every TESS partner has enjoyed working with the cases which opened their initiative for evaluation and shared their views on improvement and support. Conducted interviews were captivating and we were given yet another lesson on how sincerely interviewees talk about things that matter to them, even if there is nothing to give in return right away. Hopefully OUAS will have a chance to be a partner in other framework projects in the future. This time the implications for everyday teaching at our institute were scarce but in future we hope to integrate research and its policy implications better in the everyday teaching and co-operation with locals in our region.
The work in the project is about to end, and a number of interesting connections have been established. Also an enhanced understanding of different disciplines and wider understanding of European community-based initiatives will continue pass this project.
Outi Virkkula, Tanja Kähkönen, Johanna Pihlajamaa.