Collaborating challenges: what happens when you are late to the party?

[Editor’s note: this post was written by Balázs Váradi from the Budapest Institute. Balázs substitute Petra at the Jakarta meeting because she was unable to attend. In this post he shares some thoughts about the experience and offers some advice on how to manage these situations.]

There is a Hungarian saying “he got into something like Pilate got in to the Credo”. It means: “accidentally, without really belonging there.” (The reference is to the Catholic prayer Apostle’s Creed or Credo that lists Jesus Christ’s life events, including the passage „suffered under Pontius Pilate”)

That is how I got into the On Think Thanks Exchange project. Of course I was aware that the Budapest Institute participated in this exercise, and my colleague and one of our managing directors Petra Reszkető kept all of us informed about the project, including the formation of the self-assessment work group (PSATT) she volunteered for, but organizational issues have never been my forte and I was busy pursuing other projects within the Institute at the time.

All of this changed in August, when Petra was invited to participate in an OECD fact finding mission in Rome, Italy at the same time as when the Jakarta get-together was scheduled for. We quickly decided the project was too important for us, and the meeting too important for the success of the project to miss, so I was chosen to step in for the time. Switches like this are inevitable during the course of a project longer than a year, so Enrique suggested that summarizing how we managed might be of interest. Here you go:

  • First I coordinated the new travel arrangements with The Exchange and rescheduled my university lectures.
  • Over the rest of August, I also skimmed the accumulated written documents of the project.
  • Next, Petra and I had a one-on-one about the aims of the projects as well as what Petra thought the Budapest Institute stands to take home from it. She shared with me her priorities for the next milestones, we discussed that, and we went through the list of participants, with Petra’s pro domo remarks based on the Lima meeting (not public, sorry, folks…). She also pointed out what the key tasks and readings for our work group were.
  • Next, the work group had a pre-Jakarta BlueJeans online conference, both of us participated in that: Petra introduced me to the others, she participated in discussions about the past and present procedural issues, and I pitched in when divvying up work towards the Jakarta meeting, e.g. working our way along the reading list was on the agenda.
  • I also updated the slides Petra used to introduce our Institute to the others. (Eventually, while we did not introduce our think tanks to the others formally to the others this time, this helped me do the informal introduction.
  • Finally I did the reading and flew to Jakarta to meet a diverse bunch of knowledgeable, committed, entertaining people to work with.

So far, so good! Stay tuned to read about the work we actually got done during the week right here.