Part of my role at the LSE that I really enjoy is working with staff to find novel solutions to age-old problems. So a few weeks ago I was invited to discuss with colleagues in a research and teaching 'cluster' within a department that perennial question: "what's the point of an away day?"
The head of department appeared to want the staff to spend the day writing serious funding proposals and yet a survey of the staff suggested they wanted to "have fun, and get to know each-other." The away-day became a half day and the focus remained a little vague. The fixed points were lunch at noon, a gastro-pub at 5pm, and those apparent polar opposites, 'research applications' and 'fun'.
The result was an off-campus half day at St Martin in the the Fields, in the newly refurbished St Martin's Hall. I had organised a 'research-poster workshop', in which tables of 4 or 5 colleagues, of different grades, backgrounds and discipline focus (socially engineered by the departmental manager), worked from a 'mock' European Journal funding call. The funding call, which modelled the 'real thing', invited applications for 12-24 month projects to build research networks with at least three country partners and a particular discipline focus. There was a specification about dissemination, use of technology and so on. The session ran along lines similar to the 'World-Cafe' concept. So each table had to come up with a draft idea, blu-tac their A2 poster to the wall and then circulate around the other four groups' posters providing feedback in the form of post-its (colour coded for each group).