Graham Sustainability Institute

Lessons from the pandemic: How to collaborate effectively in a remote environment

Thursday, June 25, 2020

As we continue to adjust to pandemic-prompted changes in our work, Graham Institute staff and affiliates have strived to maintain the collaborative approach core to the institute’s mission. Their takeaways will help us move forward with a multitude of benefits, from lower carbon emissions to better work-life balance.
To this end, the NERRS Science Collaborative, hosted by Graham, recently presented a webinar moderated by James Arnott, Graham Visiting Scholar and executive director of the Aspen Global Change Institute. “There’s a real opportunity in this moment to experiment, share ideas, and test assumptions about how we do collaborative research—not only in this urgent moment of social distancing but also, looking to the future, how we adapt our practices to be the most effective and efficient they can be,” Arnott said.
Julia Wondolleck, SEAS professor of Environmental Policy and Planning and webinar panelist, encourages us to be particularly attentive to the intangible factors that promote effective collaboration but are at risk in a fully remote environment. “We know what it takes to make collaboration work,” said Wondelleck. “The question now is how to instill and sustain these qualities in a virtual world.”
From equity considerations, like partners’ bandwidth and technology, to ideation tools, like Google Jamboard and Padlet, there is no shortage of ideas.
“We’re now trying to build a library of tips and resources for virtual engagement and to help our grant recipients adapt their plans,” said Lynn Vaccaro, coastal ecosystem research specialist in Graham’s Water Center. “My mantra these days is that virtual work requires that we lean into all our collaboration best practices with gusto.”