Communication is both a question of language and of mutual understanding. For this process certain integration tools are needed. Within Oikodrom studies we have worked out a range of methods and tools in order to support these complex tasks.
Developing a research-design that takes into account the differences between the participants and enables such an integrative approach is part of the scientific strategy.
Four levels of intercultural and interdisciplinary exchange:
1. Face to face meetings
3. Communication tools
4. Synthesis, common knowledge base
The face to face meetings
The innovative approach is to regard the consortium as a learning organization. The applied methodologies support the development of integrated knowledge. The face to face meeting is one of the tools, where all participants exchange their findings personally and generate new interdisciplinary knowledge. The possibility for face to face contact can provide a good basis for respect and confidence which is a precondition for interdisciplinary teamwork. On the integration conferences the introduced methods make available the complex resources of the participants combining the perspectives and points of view of persons in different functions, from different countries and disciplines respectively cultures.
One task is to figure out which areas of research can be worked out by each disciplines independently and which areas need integration tools from the research question up to common results. The Kick-off meeting therefore has a special meaning. In this phase of getting known to each other and setting up the project structure and research design, methods of group finding, sensitisation and visualising of different perspectives are the main purposes. The implemented methods aim at a common procedural understanding.
Face to face meetings besides the project conferences and field study works provide a rather informal way of exchange. In order to create an open atmosphere collaborative activities like excursions are arranged. They allow for creating common knowledge as well as for confidence making among the partners
Each process and method requires persons with defined roles to lead through the process. We have identified the most important functions for each level of intercultural work. One major function within such a high complex project and consortium is the project-management. Especially the scientific co-ordinator and team, supported by the project coach, who hold "the red thread" in order to achieve the common knowledge base and synthesis of the project. For holding the conferences and organising the field work specific persons within the consortium as well from outside as external experts are needed.
Due to the different thematic focal points of each field and the tolerance of time and money of each participant, one question is how to allocate the experts to the seven case study villages and how the interdisciplinary field study and data survey work can be integrated. The composition of heterogeneous teams of experts who visit certain field places together is the precondition for the common field work including the presentations to the villagers and the following wrap up at the integration conferences.
Besides the face to face meetings of the consortium and the work in the case studies we set a range of further tools in order to support exchange information and knowledge among the participants. In addition to the obligatory e-mail correspondence the project participants use a password restricted area on the project webpage for internal communication where actual outcomes like deliverables are also available. Common outlines are meant to ease the following integration process. We also work on a common language (Thesaurus), a common standard of knowledge and on the synthesis of disciplinary and interdisciplinary results.
Synthesis / Common knowledge base
The fourth level describes the common knowledge which was generated out of the three levels of the intercultural integration process which the participants pass through the whole research project. With the help of the tools mentioned above the consortium finds a common understanding of the subjects, creates a common language and is then able to formulate a synthesis of their results. Questions are: Which common definitions are carried out, which basis is set for further research? Which efforts like writing workshops are undertaken in order to bring together the particular perspectives for integrative reports and interdisciplinary publications? Can these perceptions be linked to the contributing disciplines? Which common recommendations can be given? This level sets tools in order to answer these questions and to end in the synthesis of years of interdisciplinary work