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Well begun is half done!

Posted on 18-07-2021

Once in a blue moon. “RE-DWELL committee has agreed on awarding you ESR position … March 2021”, a very simple sentence but it changed everything for 15 young passionate researchers. Time runs quickly, leaving you to wonder; is this the new chapter? Am I ready? What is next?  Now I am a researcher in Marie-Curie International Training Network, which is the new fountain of knowledge not only for the new 15 Early Stage Researcher (ESRs) but for many preceding scholars. It works not only to support future researchers but also to solve the issue of social housing in a very unique and futuristic way deploying the strength of transdisciplinary research, sustainability concepts and affordability principles. Not to mention it paves our path in pursuing the success of our individual projects as part of RE-DWELL overall goals.   Well begun is half done. A few months later and on the 2nd July, we have attended our first kick-off session, followed by three comprehensive sessions, where more than 50 professionals, academics and researchers (from all over the world) have gathered for the first time. All the 15 RE-DWELLers, partners and supervisors have presented themselves in very inventive ways. Overall, the four sessions were exciting. The organizers have established a set of innovative exercises in small groups allowing everyone to meet the other RE-DWELLers and exchange the ideas and goals of the individual projects.   The ball of wool. The exercises prepared were very interactive and motivational; I have engaged with at least 12 RE-DWELLers, the level of professionalism and creativity of everyone fascinated me. Behind my 13inc screen, I met architects, urban planners, and social and political scientists and even environmental engineers engaging in very sophisticated and informed discussions, "a beehive," you might say, all of us working to understand the meaning and goals of sustainability, affordability through the eyes of transdisciplinary research. I have learned so many things in less than a couple of hours, it was my first time to paddle around "transdisciplinary" and I could say it is a deep ocean of intersecting knowledge that makes you wants more.   The heroes of 01010: Álvaro, my cam is not working! Interactive boards, separate discussion rooms, mind maps, virtual folders, and so many things were in place and ready for us, makes you wonder what incredible work and effort the organizers did. Finally, a couple of clicks on my keyboard is not enough to show appreciation to Leandro, Álvaro, Carla, Karim and everyone (with all the respect to the professional titles), but a promise to successful research outcome and a box of chocolate might help!   Thanks to everyone, and I hope to see you soon in a COVID free world.

Author: M.Alsaeed (ESR5)

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Kick-off of a new adventure!

Posted on 18-07-2021

So, this is it. I am here, in 40°C Nicosia, and I’m -digitally- surrounded by awesome people who are going to be my peers and colleagues for the next three years. I must say, I feel a mixture of awe and agitation at what lies ahead of me in this journey. This is why I paired this text with an image of Bilbo Baggins, about to leave Hobbiton behind; because I see a bit of myself in him: clearly out of my comfort zone but nonetheless excited to join this journey! On the 3rd of July we began our 4-day kick-off sessions as a digital meet-and-greet and tuning-in workshop. It felt quite awkward in the beginning, as it is expected when 40+ people meet online for the very first time, but very productive too. I was happy to listen to different perspectives on the meanings of key terms in this endeavour, such as sustainability and transdisciplinarity and try to understand or imagine where everyone’s definitions and opinions come from, what has influenced their way of thinking and steered them in a certain direction. But I was more than happy to already feel a sense of community with my team members, the 14 ESRs with whom I will be working. Through our shared confusion on what happens next, the everyday struggles to settle in new places, surround ourselves with new people and build a new “home” and the hints of insecurity peeking through those moments of sharing all the aforementioned, made me realise that I am indeed not alone in this, neither professionally, nor mentally. And there’s nothing better than finding such ties, or “making kin”, in a world that pushes us to compete, so that the strongest can survive and succeed. After all, as Jack Halberstam* once pointed out, the notion of a universal definition of success is rooted in the western economic system under which we live. But to not wander further away, I’ll just say that it was a highly enjoyable 4-day session, albeit overwhelming at times and I’m looking forward to delving deeper into everyone’s insights on this complicated task we are called to tackle. I really look forward to sharing knowledge and learning from everyone and that’s what I’m primarily here to do. I am here to learn, and the truth is I will never stop being “here to learn”. I will leave you with a quote from a beloved book that has accompanied me since I was a teenager:                 "[…] I will face my fear.                  I will permit it to pass over me and through me.                 And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path.                 Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."  - Frank Herbert, in Dune   *If you’d like to delve deeper into how our perception of success is shaped by heteronormative capitalism, check out Halberstam’s book “The queer art of failure”.

Author: E.Roussou (ESR9)

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Threshold

Posted on 18-07-2021

Through the juxtaposition of things that were not normally found together, new irruptive truths are produced. (Benjamin, 1999)   Walter Benjamin’s idea contextualised in the production of knowledge, has been in my mind for years, as a new way to engage with inquiry, research and lately life. Even before being accepted to participate in the exciting RE-Dwell ITN, when I could only dream of it, I was seeking ways to reposition and redefine myself in line with this idea.   I honestly couldn’t imagine what a great opportunity would be eventually given to me through RE-DWELL’s multi-disciplinary network of people and activities. The moment of truth came with the 4-day Kick-off session, in which I was exposed for the first time in this juxtaposition with a number of incredibly talented researchers, supervisors and collaborators, coming from different countries, backgrounds, cultures and interests. And beyond any personal insecurity, stress or awkwardness the truth was rewarding; 4 days of seeking for connections, rich discussions, interesting definitions of the same concepts from different angles, overcoming any limitations that the new virtual operations bring.   Yet it was not in the amazing conversations and collaborations, the knowledge sharing, the multi-level engagement and many more that I find the success of this Kick-off session. Most significantly, it acted as a threshold, establishing the transition from the individual to the collective, providing the invaluable feeling that no one will be alone within this demanding yet exciting journey. It provided a sense of belonging and the formation of a community, in which all of us will have a foot on to share ideas, concerns and questions, in parallel to our individual research.   My inherent belief in this community makes my heart full of excitement for what follows!   ---------------------------- Benjamin, Walter. 1999. The Arcades Project. conv. N2,1, trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 460.

Author: A.Pappa (ESR13)

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Embracing transdisciplinarity

Posted on 15-07-2021

I have to admit, before embarking on this journey with the Marie-Curie International Training Network I was unfamiliar with the term transdisciplinary. The work of myself and 14 other Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) will use this concept to carry out our research with RE-DWELL, crossing the boundaries of our respective projects within the areas of design, policy and finance, and community participation.   My first practical experience getting to grips with transdisciplinarity - in the context of learning – began with our kick-off workshops last week. This was the first opportunity to meet the other ESRs, hailing from Europe, the Middle East, and North and South America. As a part of the introductory sessions, we were tasked with defining sustainability, affordability and transdisciplinarity in small groups.   This was a particularly interesting task, as we were put in mixed groups with ESRs from different professional and academic backgrounds. It was also the first opportunity to speak one-to-one and get to know my fellow ESRs, and gain an understanding of their perspectives on the core issues of sustainability and affordability, relative to their field. My group consisted of two architects (myself included) and a political-scientist. Combining our mixed experiences brought up some interesting points which I am sure would not have been considered, had it just been limited to architects.   Since the current Covid-19 pandemic online working environments are now the norm. But it is hard to imagine otherwise how these workshops could have been delivered as efficiently and effectively. The use of visual concept boards and virtual breakout rooms meant we could be organised in groups and present information with ease (plus it meant we significantly reduced our carbon footprints!). Of course, this isn’t a replacement for in-person collaboration, and I look forward to meeting the ESRs and the wider training network in the coming months. However, these workshops have demonstrated the usefulness of online working environments to facilitate transdisciplinary learning.

Author: A.Davis (ESR1)

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Kick-off a sense of unity out of us being different!

Posted on 15-07-2021

Togetherness, belonging, a sense of comfort and connection plus an increased sense of responsibility towards the position I am assigned, are the cocktail of feelings I had by the end of the kick-off sessions. I should have kept that till the end of my blog, but I could not because now I want to lightly share with you how it started!  Hoping you enjoy it as I did.   Hi! What are you going to talk about Aya?   Ops! Yes, let me give you a hint. We are 15 young ambitious researchers (we are called ESRs Early-Stage Researchers) who have been selected for 15 research projects for Re-Dwell to investigate the affordability and sustainability of social housing in Europe and to conduct our PhD degree by the end of it! So, we have two jobs in one. We had 4 days of Kick-off sessions to introduce the young researcher, their supervisors, and the project partners to each other. And to inform us about how the workflow is going to be.   Before it starts ... To be appointed for a position for the Re-Dwell Research Project was a very international competitive process that I went through. That is why I was over the moon when I was selected to be ESR 4. So, I know my colleagues and all the attendees will be ‘la crème de la crème’ in the field and we are going to be enriching each other experience. Before the sessions start, I was curious, excited, and nervous at the same time. For me, it felt like it is my first day of work although it was not.   Let’s know each other and have a little discussion! The sessions started with a 2-minute recorded video by each ESR. Each one has his own unique character, his own different story, and life timeline. It was reflected in how each of us presented himself. we were all amazing! Then the supervisors shared with us their interests in research and life. The insights that captured my attention the most were the ones related to empathy, compassion, and the co-creation approach to integrating residents in the decision-making of their housing design and policies.     Then came the fun part to use Miro Board for the first time for almost all the ESRs! It is an online platform that allows all of us to draw charts and graphs together. We were more than 40 participants in the session, and we all used it at the same time to discover the affinities between us. There were quite a lot of them even though we are all from different parts of the world!    The sessions were well designed to be interfered with lots of interactive activities for the ESRs to talk with each other. It was a really good strategy to make us discuss ideas, opinions, and share our different perceptions of the 3 main key terms of this project: Sustainability, Affordability, and Transdisciplinary. We were asked to create mind maps for each term and each ESR will be working with different ESRs for each term. In the beginning, we were confused and wondering what to do for the first couple of minutes but then the conversation started, and the ideas flew and filled the Miro Board with mind maps.   Our transdisciplinarity! The term ‘Transdisciplinarity’ was the most interesting for me to discuss in the sessions as it is relatively new for me. It is a form of research that we are going to adopt in our research projects where different disciplines are crossing the boundaries of each other to find new solutions for complex problems. We are coming from different fields of expertise and educational background. In our case, affordability and sustainability are the two conflicting sides of the housing equation and our real challenge is to find a profound balance.     Finally, my mixed feelings moved to the calmer side! After the sessions and meeting all the participants involved, and feeling their enthusiasm, I felt calmer, happier, and much more excited to go through this interesting mysterious journey with the ‘la crème de la crème’ team to discover innovatively affordable, and sustainable housing solutions. It is not going to be easy! it is going to be a ton of work. After explaining to us the workflow of the whole Re-Dwell project, I felt there will be no time for anything else. That is why after these 4 sessions and realizing the 2 in 1 job I have now, I called my husband and told him ‘hmmm, I do not think I am going to be able to cook anything for the next 3 years, we will miss my cooking!’. I was joking with him but for sure I need to search as a researcher for other mom researchers to learn their secrets!   In the end, I remember when Professor Leandro Madrazo, our Re-Dwell Project Coordinator, gave us a speech before our last interview to be selected or not for this position, he told us ‘I wish you all the best, this opportunity is going to change your life!’. It is true! I knew it, I believed it and I am blessed to be now living it. It is the perfect challenge to extract together our best for the world.   This is the first time in my life to write a blog! I hope you enjoyed it! See you soon in the next one! Thank you! Bye! 

Author: A.Elghandour (ESR4)

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A start of a new chapter in my professional life!

Posted on 14-07-2021

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. This is a proverb  we are all familiar with, but not very often there is enough stress on that first single step. My PhD journey will evolve within the University of Zagreb, Faculty of Law, and it started with a leap, rather than a step. Over the course of four days, other Re-Dwell project Early Stage Researchers (that is how we are called) and myself were involved in layered and ambitious group work exercises, where we shared information about who we are and what we expect from the project. That leap helped me to slightly relax about the gaps in my knowledge and experience I believed I had about the topic of affordable and sustainable housing, and the end goal of developing my PhD thesis. However, the well structured exercise programme pointed out the real meaning of transdisciplinarity of the Re-Dwell approach. Not only we all had a chance to meet each other in smaller groups, but we also had a chance to share our research interests, ambitions and plans, which revealed many possible synergies and complementary topics that we agreed to follow and work on together throughout the project. These exercises were very helpful in identifying our educational background and work experience, which we then used in a group work trying to provide meaningful definitions on certain elements of the topic we will be studying. Throughout the group work, we have quickly become friends and companions on our journeys, and I can only say that now, at the beginning of my PhD journey, I look forward to collaborating with other PhD candidates and supervisors, all the hard work this project will bring.   

Author: M.Horvat (ESR6)

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