How do you create a NeIC identity?
To be able to answer the question “How do you create a NeIC identity” it is important to identify what the NeIC identity actually is. What does it mean to be a member of NeIC, and how does the NeIC identity either complement or clash with local organisational identities?
Below are some of the keywords that came out of our discussion on what defines the NeIC identity:
- We work distributed
- Because we work distributed, we also work virtually. The Slack channel is our office where we meet and interact with each other.
- NeIC staff help each other. We come from different countries and backgrounds, and have different skills and expertise to bring to the table. NeIC staff happily help each other both within and across projects.
- A feeling that you are contributing and making a difference together with the other countries in the Nordics.
- We have a ‘Nordic’ identity: Nordic culture is similar to each other and there is a high level of trust between the countries.
- However, the NeIC family is not only Nordic, the people themselves are from different places all over the world.
- The collaboration is tighter than you find in other organisations. You feel like you are actually collaborating - not only doing tasks together.
- We are warm and welcoming, and open-minded to new people. When you start at NeIC you instantly feel welcome.
How do we keep the NeIC identity alive?
The size of the NeIC organisation has grown at a quick pace the last couple of years. Many new members of staff have come onboard, and while previously “everyone used to know everyone”, this is no longer the case. Previously, the director had the opportunity to meet with all new staff members to give them an introduction. Now, with the increased amount of NeIC staff, this is no longer possible. How do we then preserve the NeIC culture when there are so many new people coming in at such fast pace? Below are a few suggestions that came out of our discussions:
- We need to promote a culture where we help each other across projects. The expertise in one project can add a lot of value for another project. We have many of the same structures, challenges and ways of working. Let’s help each other!
- Communication tools such as Slack and Zoom help us to be together even though we are not geographically in the same place. It makes all staff from all other projects reachable. It can also be used as a way to help us stay updated on what other people are working on. It’s a ‘virtual coffee machine’ were you meet to banter and learn from each other.
- If a host organisation participates in multiple NeIC projects, it should encourage cross-project communication within the organisation for the sake of culture building, and cross-project support and synergies.
- Part of our identity is to work virtually, but regular face-to-face meetings are vital. Meetings (such as the All Hands Meetings) where all staff come together builds team spirit and community feeling both within and across project teams. The social aspect of these meetings function as ice-breakers and make NeIC work feel more relaxed, informal and fun. It is also a great way of building up trust and understanding between NeIC staff, and lowers the threshold to reach out to colleagues for help.
- NeIC could organise social icebreakers both in the virtual environments or at face-to-face meetings. Informal introductions where people have ten minutes to introduce a hobby they are passionate about could be a useful add-on to the next AHM. Helping people get to know each other on a more personal basis would make it easier and more fun for people to collaborate with each other.
- Randomly assigned seating at the dinner of the first day of AHM, so that people interact with people they don’t already know, could be another good idea.
- Group pictures at AHMs and other project group face-to-face meetings.
- We should talk more about what NeIC identity is. Not everyone within NeIC has a clear idea of what our identity is. Conversations and discussions could help clarify the NeIC identity.
How do we ensure that NeIC culture complements the culture of the host organisation?
How would we want NeIC people to be seen in their local organisation? They should be seen as hubs for sharing information and practices between NeIC and the partner organisation. This is why NeIC staff should not work 100% for NeIC, so that they don’t lose the connection to their home organisation.
The local organisation should benefit from their staff working on NeIC projects. NeIC projects always strive to create synergies with national strategies. Therefore a person should be able to do meaningful work both in a national and in a Nordic context, where each part should profit from each other. Some benefits for the host organisation and its staff are increased competence, wider communication networks, experience in working across the Nordics and across different cultures.
How is NeIC going to be seen in Europe and internationally?
NeIC has got a good opportunity to build its profile internationally due a strong identity. A part of the NeIC identity is to be part of the “expert group” in the north. Also, because it is a long-lasting institution, it has more stability and a longer term view than many of the other (for example) European Commission funded projects.
With a strong international role, NeIC would lower the barrier for scientists to reach other international communities worldwide. NeIC staff would not only be ambassadors for NeIC in their local organisations, but also in other international collaborations. Building and promoting NeIC in Europe and beyond should be part of NeICs strategy in the years to come.
By Anne-Marie Bach, Michaela Barth, Kalle Happonen, Johanna Kaunisvaara, Kine Nordstokkå and Kasper Sort
This blog post is the result of the speed blogging session during NeIC All Hands Meeting 2018, where participants were given one hour tocollaboratively write an opinion piece on various subject matters.