We are Else and Lynn, second-year students Learning & Development in Organizations and we have jumped into the deep end.
About six months ago we entered into a working partnership with a client from Bonaire. Unfortunately this did not mean working on a beach near the Caribbean Sea; we carried out this assignment back home in this cold little country, in the Netherlands. But even so, we went ahead with this sunny collaboration!
Mangazina Di Rei
The Repository Mangazina Di Rei is part of the Cultural Park and Educational Center, which aims to contribute to a multifunctional rural area. To this end, students from different disciplines and levels, together with people who have a distance to the labor market, are given the opportunity to discover their talents in the Cultural Park. How cool is that?!
The foundation’s policy is to offer various educational programs for children and young people. In this endeavor they are joined by passionate seniors, professionals and (company) volunteers.
You are probably wondering how we ended up with an assignment from Bonaire. We were looking for a challenge but we had no idea what kind of challenge that should be. Lynn took action and scheduled a meeting with Christel Visser. After an innovative and energetic conversation, Christel knew exactly who would be a perfect match for us: Heleen.
Heleen has been our client during this whole process. It was very exciting for all parties concerned because we are the first students who were commissioned by a client from abroad and who performed their assignment in the Netherlands.
And which question did Heleen put before us?
How can we ensure that all (new) Mangazina Di Rei employees are familiar with the organization’s mission statement and vision, and that they express it in their work? We went to work on this question and we created a solid product, which may be implemented by the next student on location, on Bonaire.
Collaboration at a distance of 7,797 km
When we started in October, it was still considered to be special to work together with someone remotely. Nowadays this is hard to imagine because it has become more common than ever.
You must have experienced it yourself already: it is possible to do a lot online. For example, we have been able to maintain good contact with Bonaire by making use of many video calls and MS Teams meetings. The only things that did not always work for us were the Wi-Fi signal on Bonaire and planning meetings with a six-hour time difference.
It was important for the induction process that it matched the organizational culture and the target group’s norms and values . Due to the distance, we had to analyze this entirely online, which was not quite the way we were used to doing things. Obviously, we would have preferred to visit Mangazina Di Rei in person, but with good (online) communication and transparency, it can also be done at a distance.
Joint collaboration in the Netherlands
Aside from being good colleagues, we are also good friends, which lifted our collaboration to a higher level. We were able to talk openly and honestly with each other and we dared to critique each other’s work. In addition, and not entirely annoying, we had work meetings in the pub!
What an adventure!
It was a very valuable experience, which we look back upon positively and proudly. We've been at our wit’s end, occasionally got the time difference wrong, sometimes struggled but also laughed out loud.
By having tackled this assignment, we now know the ins and outs about effective and efficient communication at a distance: Check, double check and check again! Coordination and transparency with the client is crucial.
In the future we will certainly leave our little beach on the Waal River behind to visit Bonaire’s beaches. We would like to see how our design has been implemented within the organization, and obviously we are also curious to see Bonaire itself.
Are you considering doing something similar?
Our advice is: Go for it! It can be a fruitful learning experience for you and any organization abroad. Just do it, get in touch with companies and see what is possible within your study.
Our tip: Make sure you continue to communicate clearly and that you keep your goals well-defined. Even at a distance it is possible to achieve a significant amount of work as a Learning and Development professional.
Else van Rijn & Lynn Gerritsen