A good start, against the odds

21 April 2020 - Published by Walter Wehus
Our project on social isolation starts up in the middle of worldwide distancing.

The project From Isolation to Inclusion (I2I) aims to drive public innovation in the area of social inclusion. In March, partners from the North Sea Region were supposed to have met for a kickoff in Grimstad, South Norway. Instead, they met face to face on Zoom.

“The kickoff went surprisingly well. All the partners participated, and we did a walkthrough of the different work packages in the project”, says project leader Ragni Macqueen Leifson from the Center for eHealth at the University of Agder.

Hastened adoption of digital communication

Many of the participants in I2I have worked together in other Interreg projects, and Leifson acknowledges that this made the start of I2I easier. It has also hastened the introduction of digital collaboration tools like Zoom and Teams that were not widely used in Leifson’s previous projects.

“Still, it would have been better for all of us to have met now at the start of the project, and continued our work digitally”, she says.

The project partners have now set up monthly digital meetings on the different themes of the project. One of the benefits is that the sessions can be recorded for later reference and for the benefit of those who can’t participate at the given time.

More opportunities for data gathering

I2I works on social isolation, a topic that has become very timely as the countries all over the North Sea Region are practising varying degrees of social distancing in the face of the corona outbreak.

“This allows us to collect more data and get access to a wealth of information on social isolation that we wouldn’t be able to get otherwise”, Leifson says.

Still, the new situation means that the project won’t get up to speed as quickly as planned. This means more time for analysis, background work and discussions on methods and target groups.

“We need to be able to work together over time in groups. It is also difficult for us to go out and meet isolated people. As the situation is now, we can’t meet in person the groups that the project are targeting”, Leifson says.

Uncertain future

I2I is planning to meet in Karlstad, Sweden in September, although nothing about future travel plans can be certain at this point. Leifson says that the project is met with understanding and support from the Interreg secretariat. There are already plans to prolong the project.

“I am glad we had the experience of running Interreg projects previously. That makes our position stronger today”, Leifson says.