The setup of the GENERA CoP Consolidation Workshop was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. The original plan was to organise the Consolidation Workshop as a face-to-face meeting on 22-23 April 2020 in Rome. However, the lockdown related to the COVID-19 crisis did not allow any travel in Europe, and the meeting had to be transformed into a two-day online workshop. Within these new developments and all the participants working from home, a new unforeseen scenario had to be considered. The sessions were shortened, and more breaks were added so that participants could join the meetings and manage all their other duties, such as care responsibilities.
The GENERA CoP Consolidation Workshop consisted of two days in which the working groups (1. Data, 2. Careers, 3. Gender dimension, 4. Dissemination, 5. Vision) within the GENERA CoP had individual sessions followed by presentations on their outcome. Furthermore, the Consolidation Workshop was expected to enable a discussion of overarching issues and dependencies between the individual WGs and planning the next steps.
The Consolidation Workshop was concluded with an exchange of ideas on how to sustain GENERA Network beyond the lifetime of the ACT project. The participants were asked to discuss ideas within their institutions and to prepare a more concrete exchange for the GENERA CoP Network General Assembly in September 2020. The General Assembly meeting has been scheduled for 14-15 Sep 2020.”
Forced by the lockdown, it was impossible to meet in person for the Consolidation Workshop, and the sessions could only be held online. The meeting was overshadowed by the unclear situation of the COVID-19 pandemic and the various real-life challenges of the CoP members. Some of them were overwhelmed by the extra workload and care responsibilities and, therefore, were not able to attend the sessions. It was imperative to pay attention to the current situation and give the participants time to talk about their challenges. Altogether this has led to a great sense of belonging to the GENERA Network CoP.
Overall the Consolidation Workshop was successful, and it was possible to address all scheduled topics and make progress with all GENERA Network CoP activities. The five WGs have a clear idea of which steps they want to take next. The General Assembly meeting in September is the next major event in the GENERA Network CoP.
One of the primary topics of the General Assembly meeting in September will be the development of the working groups. Therefore the working groups are still setting up virtual sessions to discuss and decide on their future targets. It is essential for the whole GENERA Network CoP to remain together and to continue the work within the working groups past the ACT project.
The global pandemic did not only challenge the preparation, moderation, and follow-up of the Consolidation Workshop. It also challenged and increased the overall duties of a CoP facilitator (team) within the GENERA Network CoP that had to be more caring, motivating, and understanding of everyone´s situations. On a positive note, GENERA members have experienced and are now used to working and collaborating virtually and not only in face-to-face meetings held once or twice a year. A switch to virtual working environments was not a problem. However, what was challenging for GENERA Network CoP members was attending meetings and especially preparing tasks for the WGs while handling their care responsibilities (homeschooling, elderly care, etc.), additional workload with the transition to online teaching as well as exams and increased stress and mental health issues. There were also cases of COVID-19 infections among the GENERA members and their relatives that lead to solidarity and emotional support within the CoP.
Overall, the crisis slowed down some of the planned activities, but it strengthened solidarity and fostered the social cohesion within the CoP.