When a network and its training go online

RECOMS also faced some difficulties because of the pandemic that threatened to hold our 5th training event, originally planned in Munich, Germany. Because of the considerable risks to bring together people from all around Europe and have the training in its physical essence, it was chosen to have the training online. In spite of the not so promising anticipation of having a long training online, we have fulfilled the learning objectives and could gain insight to conference online life. 

RECOMS Training Event 5: Doctoral School: Coupled Social-Ecological Systems and Complexity took place online via Zoom (22 – 31 July 2020) with an extension of an optional writing retreat until 5th August. The event was hosted and co-organized by the Rachel Carson Center, LMU. During the training, all 15 Fellows participated, as did mentors representing all beneficiaries, the RECOMS partners, and also four external presenters and trainers. 

The aim of Training Event 5 was to equip the RECOMS fellows with skills and knowledge in complexity theory, transdisciplinarity, communication, scientific publication and teaching online in order to increase their capacity to achieve research impact and induce on-the-ground transformative thinking. The communication skills are transferable, which can facilitate careers not only in academic fields, but in private, NGO and public environments. Besides improving their skill sets in these ways, Training Event 5 also gave an insight into working online; due to the forced impacts of the pandemic fellows could experience new digital tools and techniques that can support online collaboration and engagement. 

By exploring a variety of methods in online teaching as well as writing, the fellows could fine-tune their ability to translate the scientific concepts they work with along with their current research results in a structured way that can also be comprehended by the general public or other interest groups. The keynote presentations provided a peep into environmental history and the complex relationships of environment and humans, whereas the workshop on MOOC and teaching gave an overview of learning principles and ways of structuring a curriculum. The 2-day writing workshop introduced some foundational principles about how to structure arguments and put ideas on paper in a structured manner, while the follow-on optional writing retreat gave further time to put the learnt principles in to practice. In between these works, there was ample time for discussion among the fellows about how to proceed with deliverables and further events as well as opportunities to share experiences within several self-organised sessions run by the fellows. 

Training Event 5 consolidated and extended the training the fellows have received on creativity, visualisation and communication during Training Event 1 in Vaasa (photography), during Training Event 2 in Coventry (drawing, visual minuting), during Training Event 3 in Groningen (creatively engaging with a community and presenting results) and Training Event 4 in Vienna (videomaking and editing, storyboarding and exhibition). Taken together, these trainings will give the fellows a solid foundation for working further on their doctoral research as well as preparing for the final conference and exhibition (Training Event 7, in June 2021) and beyond.