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Hands-on Project on Sustainability: ‘A great opportunity for creating sustainable ideas’

Irma Yadira Gámez (Honduras), Andrés Felipe Caballero (Colombia) and Robert Baumgartner (Peru) convinced the jury with their excellent research, creative scenarios and an outstanding video production. Andrés explains how the team came together, found ideas and finally produced such excellent results. The Alumniportal conducted an interview with the winners.

Your team won the hands-on-project, what were your first reactions?

We were overjoyed with the great news, and our first reaction was to organise a video conference so we could share our feelings with each other. We had done our best and invested a lot of time, effort and creativity into the project. But we weren’t sure, mainly because there were several other really good projects. So when we were told we had won, it was not only a great joy but also a relief.

What do you do in real life?

Robert is a biologist, but now he is teaching English at a university in Lima and doing some translations. In the past, he has worked for two consultancy firms, and he ran his own NGO that providing free advice to small-scale Peruvian entrepreneurs. Irma is a systems engineer and currently provides technological support in the field of virtual education at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras, which is a public university and the biggest educational institution in Honduras. I’m a mechanical engineer, currently pursuing my last year of courses in applied mathematics. I’m also working on the design of machinery for the poultry industry in Latin America, as well as teaching mathematics and physics to undergraduate students in my free time.

How did you get to know each other?

Our team building was rather easy since we had the advantage of all living in similar time zones; we all speak Spanish and come from cultures with a lot of similarities. Our first contact took place via the Alumniportal Deutschland, by email. Our first video conferences were on Skype and Google Hangouts, where we did our best to get to know each other – and to find out what each team member's strengths and weaknesses were.

How did you share the work? Who did what?

At the beginning, Irma and I worked together to create the team name and logo; I was in charge of coordinating our research to find the most relevant information for our scenarios. I also produced summaries of the results of our research into social, economic and environmental analyses and forecasts for 2033, for inclusion in the required documents and the blog, as well as some optional documents. Each team member was responsible for collecting information on certain subjects: Robert researched solar energy and the use of bicycles as part of the urban transportation system, while Irma and I gathered information about transport and the environmental situation in Tegucigalpa, and the possible transport scenarios for the future.

With regard to the video we had to create, Robert was also responsible for translation, text revision and creative production (scenario style, storyboard, script, main voice, music background). Irma and I, on the other hand, took care of the sound and the coloured backgrounds; we provided some voices (in the podcast), wrote scripts (Irma, podcast) and assessed scripts. Irma also provided us with first-hand information about Tegucigalpa, since she is the only one in the group who knows the city – she lives there. It was mainly my job to gather votes for our video and scenarios (task 4).

The winning team ‘Green Roads’ from South America

What was the most difficult thing to do?

The most difficult thing was to agree on an idea for the video. We had found a lot of information, and it was only after writing down our first script that we discovered that three minutes (the time available for the video) is not much time. So we had to cut a lot of good ideas, and decide which ideas really were the most important ones.

How was the scenario writing?

Writing the scenarios for the second task was rather easy, as there wasn't any time limitation, and we were able to agree quite quickly on the format. What was considerably more difficult, as explained above, was writing the scenarios for the videos.

What did you learn about working together?

Maybe we should have spent more time getting to know each other even better, and clarifying each team member's availability. When working together virtually, it is important to highlight and explain facts as clearly as possible, in order to achieve good communication and to adapt issues to the context of each country. Also, we should have planned our virtual meetings a little better, since we often ended up talking about a lot of things that weren't essential; then we had little time left over for the really important issues. Another problem was that, on some occasions, Irma didn't have a microphone so she had to communicate in writing, which hindered really good communication.

Did you have any intercultural problems?

We didn’t have any intercultural problems with respect to our communication or work, as we all come from very similar cultural backgrounds. Robert is Swiss but his mother is South American and he has lived in Peru for over nine years. Irma was born in Marcala, a town in northwestern Honduras, but she lives in Tegucigalpa, the capital. And I’m from Barranquilla, a city in the north of Colombia, near the Caribbean. All in all, we were able to work together really well.

What was particularly fascinating about the project?

This project was a great opportunity for creating and sharing ideas on how to face environmental problems. The most fascinating thing was to see the enthusiasm of all the team members and to discover new skills we had never used before. For example, some of us had never edited a video and none of us had created a podcast.

When do you join the ‘winner's journey’ in Germany?

We don't know the exact date of the journey to Germany yet. It still has to be fixed. But we were told our trip is going to be at the end of March next year. We are all looking forward to it.

Interview: Torsten Schäfer

November 2013

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