The course will help you create a practical project plan and use tools that help us to connect across distance. It was initially put together in response to the COVID-19 lockdown, but it will be relevant for anyone running a collaborative project in circumstances which means that people cannot be together easily. This could include working with an international group, in a rural setting, or with people who may find it easier to contribute from home.

There are advantages to exploring the approaches to working together apart – working remotely can make efficient use of time; not all meetings really need to be in person. Virtual meetings can be inclusive if they mean folk can get involved who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend a meeting in a particular location. There are instances where remote working can save money on travel, room hire and catering, and some participants may feel more comfortable engaging at a distance. Learning how to successfully ‘work together apart’ will open up opportunities that you may not have realised existed, in terms of who and how you engage.

Each section of the course is short and succinct to help you get an overview and feel ready to get started on your own process. We have included optional ‘read, listen, watch’ resources at the end of each section if you are interested in going a little deeper into the subject. There are also a number of exercises to complete at the end of each section to help you assess your own understanding and learning, and to help you capture your thoughts in relation to your own project.

Aims of course

In this course we will focus on how you can create spaces for collaborative working when you cannot be together with the people you are working with. By working through the course and completing the activities at the end of each unit, you will end the course with a project plan that includes:

  • Project values - what makes your project unique and what success looks like.
  • Expressing your values - thinking about ways to communicate your values. When we are working on projects that will be remote, it is really important to consider how we can make then stand out.
  • The drivers of your project - gaps, strengths, risks - work through the following conversation prompts with your project team or on your own.
  • Your asset bank - what resources you already have to support your remote project idea
  • Power dynamics - in terms of your project focus, who tends to be impacted by decisions that are made, and who tends to make those decisions?
  • Who is who? - who will be involved in the project
  • Addressing power imbalance - identify barriers to inclusion and ideas for overcoming them
  • Trust builder - effective group working is about relationships and trust. This is even more crucial if you will be working remotely.
  • Staying connected - for a remote project communication strategy there are many different digital tools that you can use to facilitate your project and stay connected.
  • Digital comfort zone - reflect on how you could do some more focused learning to help build your confidence with digital tools.
  • Create a cultural probe - cultural probes work by revealing small insights into peoples’ lives, which can then inspire a group to come up with new ideas.
  • Session plan - a place to think about and plan your individual sessions.
  • Project planning timeline - using the timeline tool, visually map out what you will need to do, when, and what resources you will need to do it.
  • Exploring evaluation - how you will measure the success of the project

In addition to this practical project plan you will have a greater understanding of how to make distance working more accessible, inclusive, meaningful and rewarding. You will also have a better understanding of the landscape of tools and technologies that are available to support your work.

If you are confident about your project planning and are looking for more specific guidance about facilitating online discussion, we recommend you explore the Online training tools toolbox by Training for Change.

Practical tips for completing the course

You can complete the course in the way that suits your learning style. This may mean that you work through the activities in a linear way from beginning to end. Alternatively you may find it easier to dip in and out of the course depending on what stage of your project planning you are at.

Each unit provides an overview which is followed by a practical exercise to complete. The activities for each unit will contribute to your project plan.

The summary in each unit will give you enough understanding to work through the course. If you are interested in learning more or seeing the principles in action, we have included a number of multimedia links.

Due to the nature of this course, there will be a significant focus on technologies that can support distant working. Many of these technologies and platforms will be familiar to you and some will not. We are aware that everybody has different levels of digital literacy, access to technology and that digital solutions may not always be suitable for your group. To address this, we have included non-digital options.

If you would like personal support using these technologies, Iriss is offering free support to organisations who may be facing challenges in terms of technology during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Iriss is a charitable company limited by guarantee. Registered in Scotland: No 313740. Scottish Charity No: SC037882. Registered Office: Brunswick House, 51 Wilson Street, Glasgow, G1 1UZ.