Transylvanian Transdisciplinarity: Before the Beginning

On Friday 8th January, Andra, Daniel and I headed out to Transylvania for a week of ‘scoping’ fieldwork. Our aim was to come up with some practical options for the transdisciplinary case study in Romania. More information on the case studies and their role in the project is here. In this blog post, I will just give and overview of the highlights of the trip, and a few key emerging discussions.

Highlight 1: The richness of opportunity

Prior to the trip, Andra had invested a lot of time into locating organisations and projects with potential for collaboration. She drew a lot on her experience from her PhD work in Joern Fischer’s sustainable landscapes project, and with assistance from Tibi Hartel. We therefore met with a range of organisations and were able to present the Leverage Points project and ourselves, and hear about an extensive range of exciting initiatives. We learned about emerging cultural centres, ecotourism ventures, farming associations, and projects to conserve and promote traditional meadows and tree pastures. All were presented by dedicated people who were passionate about what they were doing, and obviously had deep understanding of the systems they were working in. To be surrounded by such enthusiasm and skill was a very positive experience for me, and left me (even more) excited about the work we will do in Romania.

Highlight 2: Links to the empirical (‘traditional science’) work

For all of the possibilities we saw, I could see clear links to the empirical elements of Leverage Points. The TD case could learn from the empirical work and vice versa. For example, in the case of a cultural centre, the reconnect workpackage could help to inform design in terms of understanding how to connect people to their environment. But the same workpackage could also use the case as an observation or study opportunity to test ideas. Such opportunity to fit between the different components of our project help to confirm the relevance of our study design.

Highlight 3: Opportunities for team discussion

During travel time and meals, we had plenty of time as a team for discussion. We talked about the TD case studies. This included weighing up the pros and cons and practicalities of cases we had seen; or thinking about what the tangible case would be if we worked with a particular organization. Such conversations are essential for case selection and development. And gave us space to develop a shared understanding on what was important, and what we are aiming for. Additionally, we talked a lot about the overall project, how we thought it was going, tensions we are experiencing, etc. None of these conversations were representative of the overall project – we were just three people. But I certainly find it helpful to hear about individual experiences so that I can consider them when thinking about how we manage and develop the project.

Next steps

Now that we are back, I think we all need to catch up on sleep and emails. Andra is currently collating her notes on the TD case, and I am doing the same for my thoughts on the fit to the empirical work packages. We have had a debrief to discuss our favourite cases, and what the tangible case actually is (place, people, topic, actions, etc.). We are now putting together all our thoughts to come up with a short list of 2 or 3 cases, and to ‘map’ how the empirical work could fit to it. These will then be presented at the project retreat in February, with the intention that we select our case then.

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