On Saturday I’ll be joining Professor Neil Robertson from our School of Chemistry to travel to Pune, India and deliver a workshop funded under the UK-India Researcher Links scheme funded by the British Council and Royal Society of Chemistry. Entitled “Translating Clean Energy Research to Rural India” the workshop will bring together researchers from the UK and India, working in social and physical sciences to understand the challenges of bringing clean energy technology to rural villages and introduce them to a range of experts who will explain how they have overcome these challenges. My plan is to blog throughout the week on what we’ve done, sharing the good practice that emerges and making the process as transparent as possible to support other researchers and researcher developers. I’m grateful to Neil and other colleagues at Edinburgh for being so open to this idea.
This initial post will share how we planned the workshop and what we’ve done to get to the point of departure. I should make it clear that I came into the organising team very late – the funding had already been awarded. Neil and his co-applicants Dr. Jamie Cross (University of Edinburgh), Prof Satish Ogale (IISER, Pune) and Dr. Priyadarshini Karve (Samuchit Enviro Tech) developed the concept and aims of the workshop; my role has been to think about how these can be successful achieved.
Drawing on my experiences from Scottish, Welsh and other Crucibles as well as workshops on collaboration and intercultural working, I started with the aims from the proposal:
- To introduce physical scientists to the real-world use of energy technologies in rural India. (A visit to selected villages in Maharashtra at the start of the workshop to inform the subsequent presentations, discussions and problem-solving activities of the workshop.)
- To introduce social scientists to the latest progress in emerging technologies to raise their awareness of immediate and future technological approaches to pressing problems.
- To facilitate communication and network building between physical and social scientists.
- To identify short-term projects for immediate impact to consolidate new partnerships that develop during the workshop.
Although an outline for the workshop formed part of the application, I made a couple of changes – principally building in more time for participants to explore and develop ideas and bringing forward their presentations to each other by a day. It’s worth noting that Neil and his co-organisers have built the whole concept of the workshop around an initial day spent visiting a number of villages in Maharashtra so that the researchers on the workshop can truly appreciate the context in which their ideas need have have impact and the challenges presented by the environment. I think this will have a dramatic and positive impact on the outputs of the week, and I suspect a very personal impact on all of us. If you are reading this and planning your own international development workshop look out for a blog at the start of next week where I’ll try to capture the day and what it meant to us all.
Back to my planning – I structured the workshop around a set of daily themes which helped me to ensure we had a clear flow to help with briefing speakers and attendees:
- Setting the scene and understanding the context
- Getting to know fellow participants
- Generating ideas, learning from experts
- Selecting and developing ideas
- Reviewing ideas, the programme and sustaining the network
Having done this and produced a brief outline programme I sent it to a few people who had previously attended Researcher Links workshops (many thanks to Dr Ankush Aggarwal of Swansea University and Dr Hu Du of Cardiff University for their feedback) and made further adjustments to maximise the time for participants to understand each other and start developing their ideas. I wanted to minimise the danger of the momentum that will grow during the workshop being lost once people returned to home institutions and their considerable responsibilities. Although they will be at an early stage, I’ve also included a day where we review the ideas so that further work on them is done with a clear understanding of how they will be evaluated.
The outline programme is here but this is a flexible starting point which we expect to develop during the week once we get to know the participants, hear from the speakers and gauge the demands that the course is making on those attending. In the next blog I’ll explain how we briefed the speakers and attendees.