For my first ever blog as a Director of EEUK, I have used it as an opportunity to reflect back over a year unlike any other and highlight the benefits and opportunities of building and maintaining our connections.
Belonging to our vibrant international enterprise education community has always been important to me. I attended IEEC in 2007 as an enterprise orphan and suddenly had a new extended family. Today I still look forward to opportunities to re-connect, meet new faces, be inspired, share best practice and gain new ideas.
So, as I mulled over the online events and meetings I have attended over the past year, there have been definite gains. At the click of a mouse, I can connect to anyone, anywhere. Travel time and cost is no longer an issue- I have attended best practice events and conferences fitting around the commitments of work, home schooling and a house renovation!
However, we are often missing out on the social interactions that naturally occur face to face and before and after meetings.
We are part of a significant network, with EEUK having 114 member organisations and over 1000 signed up to receive the monthly newsletter, but we are also busier than ever before.
So how can we get to know each other? Who is in our network? What is their expertise? Are they facing the same issues? Do they have best practice to share? Is collaboration an option?
What we do know is that online meeting fatigue is very ‘real’, however connecting with kindred spirits can have a positive effect on you in both your work and personal life.
I will leave you with example of how making time to connect and re-connect within a network has and continues to reap rewards, when 22 FE and HE institutions worked together in 2020 to deliver the first country wide online Summer Start-up Week. To deliver this scale of event in a 3-month window from scratch required a lot of hard work and online meetings!
However, we shared content and contacts, learnt new skills, re-connected with each other, welcomed new members and shared ideas. The learning, laughter and collaboration created a sense of belonging and wellbeing and kept us motivated through tough times.
We continue to meet monthly to keep us connected with a rotating chair and have already developed an annual programme of collective activity for our students and graduates including ‘Mix up and Pitch’, the Wales Student Market, social challenges such the Hack of Kindness and Hack of Change, an Explore workshop series covering the 15 Entrecomp competencies and of course Summer Start-up Week 2021.
To serve its members, EEUK will be creating opportunities for associates to become more involved with shaping future activities and will be creating the space to facilitate deeper social connections with old and new faces across 2021 – watch this space!
We are in it together and if you want to connect over a virtual coffee my Teams door as is always open.
Emma Forouzan, EEUK Director and Student Enterprise Manager, University of South Wales