Through foul and fair. The benefits and bothers of a project coordinator

29 May 2024

With this article, we at Housing Initiative for Eastern Europe (IWO) would like to describe what it is actually like to be the Lead Partner of a LIFE project like Cosme Reno.

Leading the project is similar to the experience of parenting. You are responsible for everything, sometimes you need to encourage, and sometimes you need to be strict, but the most important is that you need to be there for the project and the partners

Constitution and work packages

Starting the project is similar to establishing a new state; you need a “Constitution” which is the Grant Agreement concluded between partners and the European Commission. And then you need your “legal system” and “rules of the game”, both settled in the Consortium Agreement between all partners. When it comes to the Consortium Agreement, the partners are in a similar situation as the EU Council when voting on Common Foreign and Security Policy – we need unanimity, everybody should agree. 

If our project was a house, it would have five rooms called work packages (WPs).  In each “room,” living and working are organised separately. There are deliverables and milestones, which are basically tasks and goals, representing the “homework” to be completed in each room (aka work package or WP). As parents, we make sure the homework is done in each WP, and if it is not done on time, we bear the responsibility and excuse the respective partner in front of the “headmaster” – that is CINEA in our case. When the “homework” is done, we are responsible for checking it and handing it in. Being leaders, we want to make sure that this Cosme Reno house is actually also a home for all partners, where working in each “room” is safe and everyone feels good about doing their “homework”.

As a lead partner, we may not have tasks in the WPs “de jure”, but we are there for our partners “de facto”. Like a good therapist, we listen. Like a solicitor, we provide our opinion. Like a friend, we can give advice and a hug when needed – even if we can only give a real hug during consortium meetings in person and thus just a few times during the project.

We should defend the interests of each partner, while still acting in the project’s best interest. We need to be a “Lady Justice”, holding a sword, scales, and sometimes wearing a blindfold. To be impartial and fair.

Leading the project can be like working in an ambulance; you will be called to treat a sore throat as well as a heart attack, and you need to be prepared for this. Any issue will come to you, and you either know how to solve it or have to develop the best skill, called “figure it out”. And at times, you will also have to accept that the help and support you can provide has certain limits.

Cosme Reno

For Cosme Reno, we went through so many changes, we changed the partner constellation several times, faced delays with signing the Grant Agreement, reconsidered different perspectives regarding the Consortium Agreement, and replaced the  coordination team at IWO.

However, this feeling, when the project is progressing and all partners are committed to working toward the common goals, is absolutely worth the difficulties sometimes encountered.

So what do project leaders actually do?

Sometimes you may wonder: What do they (the project leaders) actually do? The answer is, we do everything so the partners can do their job in the best way. We jointly go through ups and downs with each of them and are ready to step in at any point when we are needed. Despite sometimes also having a hard time or being tired and struggling, we very much enjoy working with the partners and have never regretted becoming a project coordinator. The value and gain of meeting and working together with all of you, sharing expertise and experiences, and learning from each other is absolutely worth it.

Interested to know more about project coordination (and much more…)?

Get in touch with us!

 

“Leading the project is similar to the experience of parenting. You are responsible for everything; sometimes you need to encourage and sometimes be strict, but the most important is that you need to be there for the project and the partners

– Karine Jegiazarjana, IWO

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