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Author Archives: pigasus
Even when you’re working together, there’s always some work you end up doing alone.
It’s a Saturday afternoon in September and some 200 people are scurrying around an impressive courtyard, independently or guided by a designer (an architect, artist…) – My House Arabianranta is in full swing. There were a lot of people organizing the event: about 90 residents, a bit over a dozen designers and tens of other partners. Are you surprised to hear that most of the organizing was done by individuals working alone?
In my work, I’ve interviewed people who participate actively in the affairs of their district or neighborhood, and I often hear that you sometimes feel a bit lonely especially if you’re co-ordinating large crowds. You are lonely even though you’re surrounded by lovely people.
The feeling of loneliness probably has to do with independence and the fact that none of the people around you knows or does the particular tasks you take care of. Or they work from home. You’d get more companions by putting some time into the delegation of tasks… but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to arrange some kind of concrete peer support for this kind of projects.
I don’t live in the Arabianranta district myself. I was on unpaid maternity leave and took care of my tasks sporadically and at irregular hours. My situation was such that it would have been impossible for me to participate in the first place if Artova didn’t make such good use of different electronic online tools.
I believe that the distance between me and Artova grew because of my stiff civil servant background. It hasn’t been once or twice that I’ve wondered at how I ended up doing so much work from home with this Arabianranta project when in Arabianranta there are such wonderful people and such great spirit. One of the most important things I learned over the course of the project was that all face-to-face interaction made everything easier and more fun. That’s something I intend to keep in mind the next time I get to choose where my desk is.
Janne, who co-ordinates all six Spirit of Artova projects, introduced me to many local individuals and companies. Having me and the other volunteers meet even more other people who do similar work might have lightened the workload and tied me better into the lively Artova network. It wasn’t until things were looking pretty sombre that I realized I should actively look for peer support.
I felt the support I needed was “stealing” time from more important things because there is always so much going on in Artova. It would have been useful to have some specifically allocated time, at regular intervals, for on-the-point mentoring sessions. Every time I talked about the project with others valuable tips and lessons came up, things that I wouldn’t have thought to ask.
Over these years, a lot of skillful people have found their way into Artova. It might be a good idea to start drawing up a list of potential mentors and arrange mentoring meetings where old hands and newbies could talk. Something like “night of dumb questions” where everyone is welcome to join, as is the case usually in Artova anyway.
Peer support and advice enables you to make things happen, big things, and at the computer in the middle of the night if need be. It’s important if we want to complete projects like this outside office hours, regardless of where everyone is.
Translation Pigasus Translations.
- share responsibilities
- take personal chemistry into account
- make use of the Internet and the social media
- start EVERYTHING well in advance
- think of the entity when you’re drawing up the program (links to the region you’re operating)
- let responsibilities pile up to few
- take unnecessary risks (with schedules, partners, allocation of tasks…)
- keep pushing back contacting the media and publicising
- push back preliminary rounds and evaluation
- insist on having it all – leave something for the next time
Iiris & Noora
Translation by Pigasus Translations.
The festival weekend showed what we had done well and what could have been done better. As AFF drew near, our schedule was looking somewhat shaky. Luckily enough, it held all the way. The actual festival days hadn’t been planned in as much detail as the run-up and the disappearance of a person and some communication problems caused a tedious moment or two. Who was it again who was supposed to pick up the snacks for the VIP lounge? Who has the keys? When can we start rearranging the furniture ( = start pulling chairs from under students having their lunch)?
When volunteers are making an event, the motivation must be something other than money. Starting from the “we want you” announcement of AFF, it has always been about having a good time.
I was interested in AFF because, in addition to liking the idea of having fun with nice people, I wanted work experience in the culture sector. In many an internship the gist of it is that the unpaid intern gets to work the shredder or scrub the toilet, but in AFF there were real responsibilities for all motivated participants! It felt like Artova respected and valued the ideas and skills of our motley crew, a bunch with a very diverse background. This diversity made our event complete and multi-faceted, it couldn’t have been done without those different skills and points of view. The organisers should represent the same amount of diversity your desired audience has. The input from each team member spoke louder than any CV.
You learn by doing. New situations came up sometimes to the point of exhaustion and as there was only a month to get everything done, there wasn’t always time to sit down and just scratch one’s head. Sometimes I felt very incompetent next to my colleagues with university background because they had plenty of experience in working with projects and team work. I learned a lot about working in a culture organisation and planning ahead, and I also learned to use some new computer programs. Clear and simple online materials and notes left behind by previous teams helped us to really understand the event and the work we were doing.
I had reservations about haste, deadlines and a pre-determined end result and was surprised to find that they all made the organisation process more meaningful. I had always thought of myself as someone who likes to work independently, on her own, but this time working in a team felt comfortable and pleasant and it became the lifeblood of the entire event. Doing everything on one’s own would have been very frustrating, useless and way too intense.
The AFF employees showed us the ropes and what I thought was particularly great was that it was possible to tailor one’s job description to match one’s studies or career hopes, at least to some extent. The general atmosphere was very open, and any problems were discussed in intensive meetings where everyone’s voice was heard. You were allowed to ask questions. In this type of “communal” work, individual habits for doing things merged into one… although there were a few collisions we couldn’t avoid. Meeting regularly helped us to become a unified group. At every point in the process, everyone got to determine their own level of commitment. In voluntary work, it’s very important to have the feeling that they want me and my qualities for this task, not just some guy.
Translation by Pigasus Translations.
There are four categories for AFF films: 1) documentaries, duration less than 30 minutes 2) documentaries, duration over 30 minutes 3) fiction, duration less than 30 minutes 4) fiction, duration over 30 minutes. The only rule carved in stone was that each film had to have a link to the Artova district. Any connection that can be verified was acceptable: some of the scenes were shot in Artova, the production company (or, in the case of students of film, the university) is located in Artova, a member of the production team lives in Artova… This year and last, we have had approximately 100 works coming in.
AFF media team worked hard to inform the public, press and other interested parties about the festival. Some goals were achieved, others not, and there was some unused potential because of there being too little time.
The media team used the Internet a lot: social media and the artova.fi website in particular to communicate directly with the public. Because one month is, in most cases, too short period of time to develop co-operation with most of the print media and tv, their role in the AFF publicity campaign was very small. There were, however, a number of online publications that took up the AFF bulletins and followed the festival closely.
The opening film of the third annual Artova Film Festival was viewed by more than 120 people on the 7th of September, slightly fewer than last year. This year, we had a veritable treat before the opening film: Nutty Tarts’ fresh performance Middleclassjazz brought people in as much as the opening film.
AFF opened with a touching and beautiful film Even the Rain. The choice was done on the eleventh moment but fortunately everything turned out for the best and we had time to advertise and attract a crowd. Even the Rain was directed by Icíar Bollaín, it has won three Goya awards and was the Oscar submission of Spain. The leads are Luis Tosar, who does his best performance, and the ever so dreamy Gael García Bernal.
Everyone who were organising Artova Film Festival were more or less volunteers. Everyone was there because they wanted to. Even though I think most of us showed the same level of commitment they would if it were a “real” job, at the end of the day, it’s still voluntary work.
Responsibility can be a tricky concept in a volunteer project. It’s easy to trust active and enthusiastic people with different tasks but at the same time you can’t really oblige people to stay with the project and do their share when what they receive for their efforts is mostly a good feeling and new experiences. Having people commit to the project, then, originates with their own will to participate and a good atmosphere. To ensure things get done even if something comes up, it would be ideal to have a “backup” for even the most active of volunteers, someone who knows what has already been done and what is yet to be done. Sharing the responsibilities could be an encouraging factor because knowing you are not in charge alone would maybe make joining the organisational group less intimidating.
Arabia Street Festival 2012 was only a part of a process. It’s one milestone on the road towards new, even more fantastic events. Everything we did, slip-ups and victories, all was a part of a learning experience. That’s why it’s important to have a thorough sit-down afterwards. What was done well, what didn’t work?