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Summer School with an Italian Twist

It’s summer and everyone is thinking about their next holiday destination. Should it be Spain, Portugal, Greece or Italy? If you want to get some sun, enjoy a good meal and some great wine, any of these might do the trick. They might be the perfect place even when you’re planning to mix together learning, knowledge and fun . At least that’s what I did last week, when I got to enjoy some Tuscan sun, eat the best pasta and shoot photos of some lovely people, all while learning how to write a research summary.

Earlier this year, I started collaborating with Momentum [Educate + Innovate] on various projects, one of them being the 2025Skills RSVP Project in Città della Pieve in Italy. RSVP stands for Read Summarise Verify and Publish and it’s an European Project aimed at young people, in order to encourage them to research and publish mini research papers on the top 10 skills that employers will be watching out for when taking on new employees in 2025, as identified by a report of the World Economic Forum called "The Future of Jobs" (January 2016). The 10 skills are: Complex Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, Creativity, People Management, Coordinating with Others, Emotional Intelligence, Cognitive Flexibility, Service Orientation, Negotiation, Judgement and Decision Making.

Research is usually seen as an exclusive academic territory, but RSVP is planning to change that. Youth workers are encouraged to engage in research through small steps, read research in a more focused way and become better professionals by acquiring knowledge and engaging with stakeholders in a new way. So, we spent this past week learning about what it means to summarise a research study and what steps we need to take in order to publish a mini research paper.

The man behind all of this is Antoine Gambin from VisMedNet Association, who came up with the concept and structure of the RSVP project. He was joined by Dr. Rabia Vezne from Associazione ValIda and an Assistant Professor at the Akdeniz University of Antalya, who designed most of the training content for research methods for the Community of Practice.

Antoine Gambin explaining what it feels like to immerse yourself in research.

Antoine Gambin explaining what it feels like to immerse yourself in research.

I attended the workshops both as participant and photographer. The sessions spanned five days and were structured to give us all the information needed for mining, research, reading and writing summaries and mini-papers. These mini-papers are called literature reviews and they compile at least 10 or 15 summaries of research studies, together with our own field research (questionnaires, interviews or focus groups).

Participants from Malta, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Ireland, Poland, Bulgaria and Spain engaged in the workshops. We each had to choose one of the 10 skills mentioned above and write a mini-research paper about it, which needs to be submitted by the end of September. But everything starts with small steps, so during our training in Italy we first had to identify one research study worthy of reading, understanding, summarising and publishing on the Project platform. This was such an engaging task, because it allowed participants to familiarise with research articles, learn how to approach the subject and extract the main ideas from the paper.

We started every day with a short and fun morning energiser - consisting of mind & body exercises - followed by the training session headed by Dr. Rabia Vezne, and continued with a couple of hours dedicated to reading and writing.

The skill I chose to write my mini-paper on is Creativity and I began with a summary for a small study conducted in Poland in 2015. I think the study is quite interesting, because it links employee creativity to overcoming role ambiguity in the hospitality business (hotel employees). Role ambiguity is a state of stress, confusion and uncertainty experienced by people working in hotels during service encounters with clients. The study concludes that the more creative you are in this business, the more immune you’ll be to role ambiguity, because you poses the skills to interact with each client in a unique way. So, hiring more creative people in guest-contact positions in hotels can have a better impact on the overall image of the organisation, considering the fact that these employees are often seen by clients as brand ambassadors, acting as the face of the company.

What I enjoyed about the whole RSVP experience was the perfect balance between learning and fun. Città della Pieve is a lovely small town in the province of Perugia, a stone throw away from Tuscany. Walking on the narrow old streets, tasting the heavenly wine and the delicious food will surely boost one’s creativity and good mood. The region is known for it’s saffron - which they use in a number of dishes -, Pecorino cheese and a great home made pasta called Pici. I can still remember the taste of an amazing Pecorino cheese & Saffron risotto I had at one of the local restaurants.

Because we kept well to our writing schedules, on the fourth day of training we took a short trip to Tuscany. We went to see the hot springs of Bagno Vignoni, admire the great architecture of Pienza and taste the wine in Montepulciano. A few hours to see all these places is not enough, but I’m definitely planning a new trip here in the near future. It’s a place that needs to be experienced in a slow pace, with a piece of Pecorino cheese in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.

By the end of the fifth day, everyone had their summaries published and peer-reviewed. Now, all we have to do is decide which direction each of the mini-papers will take and follow through with some more reading, summarising and actual field work. In my case, I might decide to follow with more research on the hospitality business, because it’s important to understand the meaning of creativity as a skill for employees working in this field.

These being said, I think this is the most beautiful place I ever travelled to in order to attend a workshop. A great combination of food, scenery, people and knowledge that I would repeat again in a heartbeat. Thank you, Antoine & Co.! Till next time! :)

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