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It's not a sprint, it's a marathon

16 April 2020

ELIA Executive Director Maria Hansen puts work-life rebalance in perspective after listening to the experiences of members and adopting new rituals.

After a month of lock-down, I am writing to you from my office at home. In my house, at this moment, there are five of us engaged in virtual work and learning. My son is taking a chemical engineering exam next door to me right now, my daughter is listening to a law lecture, the youngest is preparing for an online German literature Kahoot quiz, and my husband is upgrading the infrastructure of Dutch train stations - all this remotely of course.

This morning, the ELIA team and I had our daily 10am coffee meeting – a nice ritual we didn’t have before the lock-down (silver linings!). It keeps us connected as a team. But it also keeps us focused and coordinated in a time that demands we transform the work that we do really fast. This is something you will recognise, of course.

In recent weeks the ELIA team has heard from many of you and we thank you for sharing your stories with us.  The reactions to our latest survey will are detailed in this month's ELIA newsletter.

At the beginning of April, ELIA held the two-day meeting of the Representative Board via video conference. A good amount of time was spent on hearing their stories – which are your stories, no doubt. Some institutions were locked out of their buildings overnight and could not get access to materials, equipment or even belongings in lockers.

Meanwhile international students have found themselves out of jobs, or lonely in a city that wasn’t their own. And teaching art practice without the use of the buildings and the physical proximity of workshop leaders and teachers was considered by most to be a huge challenge not easily overcome. Fee-based education institutions, especially in the UK, are scrambling to still offer the education promised and maintain recruitment. As well as there being much concern about graduation examinations, the form they might take and how institutions and educators will transition into the next year of study.

On the bright side, many were amazed and proud at how fast the switch to online teaching had gone and how swiftly the institutions and students have adjusted. We heard of beautiful solutions ranging from making art with things in your house, broadcasting concerts and talks remotely and the establishing of affordable meal options for students. What all the members of the Representative Board agreed on was that ELIA should be there for our members – that despite several cancelled events, we should keep the conversation going and connect members in order to find solutions for all these urgent questions.

Our work in the past weeks has been focused exactly on this – creating conversations that matter to you right now. As a community, you have responded with force – our webinar last week on techniques in online teaching clocked more than 200 participants and our webinar for technical staff (ETHO) will bring together more than 100 people keen to learn from each other how to ‘Keep the Making Going’.

Also, in this month's newsletter, you will find more opportunities for virtual meetings offered by ELIA. All of these are based on input our members have provided and we encourage you to keep letting us know what you want us to talk about. All ideas welcome!

I am happy to say that the ELIA team are all well and very keen to work for you. I am proud of the transition we have made together. One of our board members noted last week that she had first thought that this time was like a sprint. But having lasted through the sprint of the first few weeks, it had turned into a marathon. Having personally survived both sprints and marathons (well, one…), I know that balancing your energy will be crucial in the coming months.

On behalf of the ELIA team, I hope we can provide you with ideas, moments of inspiration and best practises to recharge your batteries and help you deal with the new challenges you are facing in your job right now.

Wishing you all the best,

Maria Hansen, Executive Director


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