Act of desperation of an analogue man in a digital era: how losing a key partner for development of digital/online adult education tools made me see the endless opportunities offered by online services, such as EPALE
Having just completed a KA1 staff mobility project - without any previous experience in project activity, relying just on our enthusiasm and help from our National Agency (and a whole lot of dumb luck), with new wind in our sails, my school’s project team decided to go to the next step for this call: the KA2. Armed to the teeth with a solid idea – develop ICT techniques software and hardware for adult learning, but also for seeking employment, career counseling and guidance, we were confident in our giant of a partner who would provide us with all the know-how, materials, and guidance and…whatever else might be needed (why read the guidelines, when the big partner recites the guidelines in their sleep?), and we found a third partner – a very respectable and reliable partner from Croatia, who would help us adapt the materials to our requirements.
So far, so good, so…sorry - wait, WHAT?
The big partner had to withdraw from the project, due to unexpected and unrelated events. Suddenly, we were hopeless – left without a partner with relevant, crucial expertise and experience in digital tech, so important to our project goals, without a backup project idea and without a slightest clue who to replace them with (in our mind – replacing THEM was impossible). All is lost.
A miracle, as an unexpected result of an act of desperation
(coincidentally, the so called “act of desperation” is the most reasonable course of action when looking for a partner, advised and explained in detail in almost every newsletter and communication we have ever received from EPALE, or any of the EAC/E+ family of services)
I logged in to EPALE, not knowing exactly what to do. I’ve only used it to publish blog posts for the mandatory KA1 results dissemination purposes, but never bothered to look if there MIGHT BE A WAY TO LOOK FOR A PARTNER ON THIS PECULIAR PORTAL FOR FINDING PARTNERS. Joking aside, I was under the impression that most other members were there for exactly the same reasons as I was – because they were obligated to, while they actually sought and found their partners elsewhere.
Fast Forward: the Response to the Request
Warning: no more jokes after this point.
The next 24 hours were simply overwhelming. Like clockwork, every 30 minutes, we received one offer after another. I am not at liberty to disclose the details of the persons who sent us their kindest partnership offers, but the staff responsible for reviewing texts would not publish this post if this weren’t true. And the organizations those individuals represent are inexplicably big, experienced, and, most importantly – all of them specifically qualified, experienced and quite well known for their expertise and success in the very narrow area of project activities and competences we have specified in our partner request – digital technology and online learning/counseling - there was not a single response that was anything but precisely what we were looking for. The offers kept coming from all types of organizations – public, NGO, private, and from all over the EU: Greece (several), Turkey (two), Spain (several Spain-based large players in this field responded), Italy, Hungary, Romania, Slovenia, Poland, Scotland… My team and I were in awe. What did I do?
All of the offers came with complete details about their organizations, relevant experience, PIC numbers, official websites (this was, by far the most dramatic “we are but a speck in the universe of adult education” moment of self-awareness – most of these orgs implement these exact kind of projects GLOBALLY, hired sometimes by governments to solve not local, not municipal, but REGIONAL AND NATIONAL problems. For good. Mostly using online services and apps, devices, stuff we use every day, but...for betterment of an entire nation?)
Again, the question my team asked was – what in the Mundus did you write in that request?
Short answer: we, as a team, chose the most quickly developing, highly requested type of activity: digital technologies in adult learning, online learning, distance learning, interactive teaching aids, multimedia content - ICT tech, in general. In retrospect, it was to be expected. However, it is more entertaining if you forget this and read the long answer:
How I wrote the request, segment by segment (please see the attached screenshot of the request, where segment numbers correspond to sections of this text)
*disclaimer: these are MY OWN guidelines, not the official EPALE guidelines.
- The title should contain the key action and activity/sector “code” as listed in the Guidelines/Call for proposals, i.e. KA103
The idea is to give as much relevant info as possible, in as few words as possible, so that the person reading can immediately decide if the request is interesting to them or not and waste no time.
For example, I assumed that a partner of the expertise and experience I was looking for would be very much familiar with the guidelines for proposals, so, instead of writing the full activity, key action and other details, I just wrote KA204 right at the beginning – the partner I had in mind would know that it was a strategic partnership for adult education.
- Then I wanted to narrow down the scope of activity – so I wrote exactly what type of activities, digital tools and instruments, etc. we were looking to adapt from (or develop in cooperation with) the prospective EU partners. I doubt that there were many people who clicked on the request by accident, due to the very specific info provided in the subject.
- In the large “Request Details” text box, I went straight to the specifics: what we were looking for, in detail, with specific goals, results and even responsibilities of the requested partner, should they decide to participate. No reason to be anything less than 100% direct – why waste anyone’s time, making them read all the way down to the bottom to find out the core of the project?
- What we HAVE GOT SO FAR – no withholding, manipulating or otherwise “bending” the real information.
I wrote that we have one (of the minimum two required partners), wrote who the partner was, and their role in the project. My reasoning: If I already have one partner, there must be something of value in this idea. If I openly state who the partner is and what their (in this case, somewhat lesser role is) – I am showing transparency and no fear of checkups on either my partner, or our collaboration agreement.
- After stating project duration and location details, I provided the focus of the project – or rather – I copied it straight from the guidelines, which means that I have a) read them, b) analyzed them and found my focus area (even though this is susceptible to slight changes, though not substantial, after consultations with the main EU partner - which is yet to be determined).
- The final part provides two links to the EPALE posts I had previously published about the previous Erasmus+ project we have recently completed. Instead of writing at length about my School’s mission/vision/history, I opted to show that we have just completed a project funded by the same foundation, and that we have done so successfully – as evident by the publication of the results.
- This one is specific for the counties - former members of Yugoslavia – but is applicable elsewhere – in our case – I was completely free and at ease to state Serbian, but also Croatian, Bosnian and Montenegrin as languages – as they are almost identical. Why wouldn’t I state all of them, if that increases my chances of appearing in the search results of a search specifying one of those languages other than Serbian? If we manage to develop a useful digital tool, either as study material/aid, or a career seeking/counseling support – why not make it available all over the territory of former Yugoslavia?
- Listing your full name and contact details tells a lot about your intentions. Goggling my name, organization or anything else I have provided will only confirm what is stated in the request. Even though our organization is by no means a giant, we do what we can, and this is certainly something we are proud of. Furthermore, it tells the readers that this post is most probably not an attempt at phishing or some other online scam.
Go, complete the steps, and find the perfect partner and best of luck!
The intention of this post is to encourage all those who are still looking for partners, or those who have doubts in the results a partner request would bring. Dear members of the EPALE platform, learn from my experience, forget any preconceptions you might have, and just write down your idea and what you are looking for. My school’s idea is not exactly typical for adult education – it overlaps with other sectors and that was one of the main reasons for my doubts. Well, the request is still valid for an entire week, and already my project team is reading about all the 15+ offers, their past projects 24/7, in hopes they can select the right one (or more, why not?). So, if we’ve had such an amazing response from the community, you will probably have even more offers to read in this very short amount of time that’s left before the deadlines. A piece of friendly advice: try to incorporate ICT/digital tools/outputs in your idea. All the bright kids say it is the FUTURE. And the future is NOW: spark up the old computer and do whatever it is that you need to do to secure your funds, the best you can. I hope my experience invigorated some of you and encouraged to actively seek partners and develop modern digital/electronic tools that will help adult learners overcome whatever obstacles they may have, complete their education and find employment!