The start-up event at Warwick has a 70s TV theme. This has been different and like the curate's egg. What I have learned is that:
- having a customisable, colonisable, informal space is a neat idea, but bean-bags are an uncomfortable gimmick after you have been sitting on them for 6 hours;
- the TV pitch that each project had to make about its future work was a good ice-breaker, but I didn't learn enough about the projects. Note to self: must do homework and read all project briefs before I arrive;
- at the start of a project it doesn't really matter which other projects you are buddied with - links are going to emerge with relevant projects over time. Perhaps the key is who you connect with, in order to share stuff/tools/strategies/outcomes later on, and a lot of this has to do with who you can have a laugh with in the bar. Our cluster [West Anglia, Kingston College and Lewisham] are going to challenge us on implementation and WP agendas I think, and that is good for us. Hopefully we will enable them to engage with transitions into HE. However, the ESCAPE party at Hertfordshire, looking at new drivers and strategies for assessment, and the guys at Newcastle on the dynamic learning maps project investigating semantic webs, diagnostic tools, tagging taxonomies and ontologies, and approaches to personalised learning, will be of interest. They also happened to be the people I smiled a lot with and that, at this stage, is crucial. The more I think about it that was one of the reasons why I connected with certain HEA Pathfinder projects. Personal engagement is critical;
- which brings me to the huge elephant in the room: the [lack of] appearance of the critical friends [CF]. The CF role in each of the projects I have managed has been crucial. The personality and drive, the value-set and ability of that person, in meeting our project teams half-way, rather than imposing a particular framework for viewing the world, has been so important. We have been told to define what type of CF we want, but if the friend has already been allocated that might be a redundant exercise, although I would like to see them as reflexive practitioners. I'm not saying that I want to enter a bidding war for specific CFs and I recognise the psychological and group-based literature that notes the value of challenging others who are not friends but work colleagues. However, my experience of Pathfinder is that there are certain CFs with whom I can connect because they have a similar world view, and others whose work-plan, view of technology and politics is too off-beam for me. This is important because we are talking about a 2 year plan of work. But maybe it doesn't matter, and as Oddball says in Kelly's Heroes "Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here? Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?"