Communication is a skill and it can be especially tricky when performed across borders, whether they are geographical, cultural or linguistic. This is also one of the key reasons for why the IBS decided to engage in a new project, seeking to enhance the communication, cooperation and participation in the working groups of the Barents cooperation.
During the project, which will run until July 2016, the IBS will open up for discussions with the working groups on issues regarding communication, cooperation and participation and interviews with the chairs of the working groups will also be organised in order to gather more information about how these issues are currently handled in the different groups. As part of the project, a new platform with information about the current working group projects has been developed on the IBS website in order to improve the dissemination of information. In addition, Kainuu Regional Council is also working to develop a communication strategy for the regional actors in the Barents Cooperation.
– Improving communication is essential for the integration of the cooperation in the region, says Tomas Hallberg, head of the International Barents Secretariat, who emphasizes the importance of the project.
– Problems with communication is probably the biggest challenges in the Barents Cooperation at the moment. We therefore have high expectations on the result of this project, he says.
Respond to the need of working groups
The initiative was developed in response to a survey that was conducted among the BEAC working groups during the autumn in 2015, in which the working group members were asked to provide feedback on their experience of participating in the working groups. The result show that the majority of the working group members were highly motivated to work within the Barents Cooperation and that they were pleased with the way it functions today.
However, a significant minority also highlighted several areas with high potential for improvement, such as communication, cooperation with other groups, participation and clarifying the mandates of the working groups. The main goal of the Communication Project is therefore to uncover the causes for these challenges and to identify possible solutions that will ensure a well-functioning transborder cooperation also in the future.
So far, meetings have been scheduled with nine of the fourteen working groups and for those groups who can not meet up during the set project period, telephone or skype interviews will be organised with the group chairs.
– The trickiest, and also the most interesting part, is to get feedback from the groups that do not functions as well, says Rebecka Snefuglli Sondell, coordinator for the ongoing project.
– The groups that meet regularly are generally active and well-functioning and it is therefore important that we also manage to reach out to the more passive groups, in order to understand why this part of the cooperation is not functioning.
In addition to continuous updates on the IBS website, the result of the project will be presented in at two seminars in June and a final report will be published in July 2016 and will be available in its electronic format at the IBS website.
The ongoing Communication Project is sponsored by the Norwegian Barents Secretariat and is developed and implemented in cooperation with Kainuu Regional Council, Syktyvkar State University, Northern Arctic Federal University in Arkhangelsk and the Arctic Centre at Lapland University.
Text by Rebecka Snefuglli Sondell
Rebecka Snefuglli Sondell presented the communication project for the Joint Working Group for Health and related Social Issues (JWGHS) of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) in Rovaniemi on April 2016. Photos by Arto Vitikka, Arctic Centre.