fredag 21 december 2012

Sustainability team kick-off

Our Media Technology and Interaction Design (MID) sustainability team (finally) kicked off our kick-off this week. The sustainability team has no less than 21 members on its' distribution list and nine of us managed to take a whole day off to discuss past and future activities of the team. A tenth member was supposed to come but had to meet a doctor urgently and an eleventh person had to cancel because of an important trip. The majority of the team members who did not show up for the kick-off are in fact lurkers who for the most part are happy to (only) read mail sent to our distribution list. Quite a few team "members" have for example not participated in a single team meeting during the autumn term. But that's totally ok and we thus have "active" as well as "passive" team members.

The team doesn't have a huge budget (yet) so we held our meeting in the home of Green Leap design professor and team member Teo Enlund in Saltsjö-Duvnäs. Other team members who showed up for the kick-off were: me, Malin, Elina, Åke, Hannes, Cristi, Anders and Katarina.

Except of breaks for lunch and coffee, we had six hours of activities and quite a hectic schedule. Some nay-sayers thought the program I had planned was too ambitious, but I and everyone else present did a great job of proving these mild doubters wrong. So what did we actually do during our kick-off? Here's what:

- Short presentations of each person present. Why are you here and what's your interest in this area (sustainability)? What do you do job-wise concerning sustainability and what do you want to do in the future? Special emphasis was put on discussing what each of us wants to get out of his/her membership in the team. Membership and participation in team activities is voluntary. We all contribute with our time, so what outcomes (functions) makes (active) team membership worthwhile for people? Some suggestions were:
   - Support regarding these issues in everyday life.
   - Sustainability is a complex issue - gaining a wider perspective when meeting people with other entry points into the area, other research interests and questions.
   - Build competence together with others.
   - Get to know about upcoming conferences and other activities of interest.
   - Find partners for writing papers and research grant applications.
   - Match our individual needs with others' competences as we get to know each other better, i.e. "I need someone who can help me with X in my project".

- The next session started with an information session (discussions and decisions):
   - Hannes talked about his and Jorge's Green Hackathon events. Hannes was fresh off the plane from the latest (Athens) Green Hackathon and the next will be held in Zürich in February in connection and as a part of the ICT for Sustainability (ICT4S) conference. I will go the the conference together with a whole bunch of CESC and MID sustainability team members.
   - We also talked about our (sometimes smooth, sometimes slightly more rocky) relationship to the KTH Center for Sustainable Communications (CESC). Who would be interested in a part- or full-time workplace in the "CESC corridor" when the center moves its location next year (Elina, Malin and Daniel as it turned out). Some of us will also attend the annual CESC workshop in January next year and the Zürich February ICT4S conference.

   - Finally we needed to find a new slot for our group meetings. We decided to shift from bi-weekley Monday morning meetings to bi-weekly Tuesday lunch meetings and to sync our meetings with the CESC bi-weekly post-lunch information meetings/mini-seminars. We can have our meeting and our lunches at the same time and then together go to the CESC meeting. This is something that for sure will boost our attendance at the CESC meetings which is another great outcome.

- Next we were supposed to work in smaller groups and generate ideas for master's thesis proposals that our group could stand behind, but this specific activity was sidelined by instead brainstorming and writing outlines for workshop submissions to the CHI 2012 "Post-sustainability" workshop. Four smaller break-out groups worked on different tasks and I believe two groups will follow through and submit proposals for the January 11 deadline. Me and Åke did solid groundwork for a worshop position paper and Hannes and Elina also had a great idea for a workhshop submission.

- We even managed to write a Christmas song for the upcoming Christmas dinner at our department! We probably spent way too much time on this task but it got the whole group involved and was great fun!

- The second-to-last and probably "heaviest" activity in our program was to discuss who we are as a group. How do we want to define or limit our activities and how do we want to present ourselves on the department homepage? What description can encompasses our diverse interests and still say something meaningful? Can we formulate a description that we all can stand behind? What do we as a group want to accomplish during 2013? We ended up with a list of keywords and the team left the task of actually writing up some kind of coherent text to me. I'll work on that first thing next year!

- The last activity before finishing off our day with a dinner together was to discuss as well as launch our sustainability team blog, We decided to start a WordPress blog (my first!) and also made some decisions about its function and use. The blog will be written in English and it will be accessible for anyone to read, but the function of the blog will (at least primarily) be internal - i.e. we will write with the rest of the team as our audience. We will diligently use categories and tags for our posts. Blog posts should be short (unlike the blog posts here!) and can for example include:
   - short presentations of team members
   - I read a good/interesting book/article, here are my thoughts
   - Take a look at this upcoming seminar/workshop/Ph.D. course/conference/call for research grant applications 
   - I've been to this interesting seminar/workshop/conference, here are my thoughts
   - I handed in a research grant application
   - I got funded!
   - I've formulated a new master's thesis proposal
   - I've been the advisor of a bachelor's/master's thesis
   - A short presentation of the upcoming team meeting external guest
   - Here's what we did at our latest team meeting!

All in all, the kick-off was a great success and people were happy about both the meeting and the outcomes. I talked with a few members from other teams at the department Christmas dinner the following evening, and I realized (to my great surprise) that our team is now a lot more coherent and organized than several of the other teams at our department. At the last year's Christmas dinner, "the sustainability team" label existed only as placeholder, and by last summer the team had only met a handful of times (three or perhaps four). To my surprise it now suddenly seems we are getting our shit together and are on a roll compared to some of the other teams! How did that happen?

That's great and all, but next year will for sure be better than this - our first - year has been. Although we did not really have time to discuss our team goals for 2013, I just sort of assume next year will be the year when team members start to write things together (scientific papers but also research grant applications)!

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