The intensive workshop 14-16/04/2021

Our project is reaching an intensive phase that requires active participation from both our team from Aalto University and the Bhutan team from Jigme Namgyel Engineering College (JNEC). For this reason, an intensive three-day online workshop was organized from 14/04/2021 to 16/04/2021. The workshop was aiming to facilitate the collaboration between the teams and enhance our bonds by exchanging cultural values and having discussion on landslide topics and the project’s outputs. Due to the pandemic situation, we cannot go directly to Bhutan, therefore, the workshop was fully held online via Zoom.

We had planned the workshop since the early phase of the project, however, due to some delays in deciding the schedule, problems regarding communication and limitations from remote working environments, the workshop can only be organized in the middle of April. The time spent for the workshop per day was only 2 hours which was quite compact and hectic, hence, a timetable should be clearly planned. 

Before the workshop, our team had several meetings to discuss the workshop’s agenda and initiated a warming-up game to get to know each other better called “Take a Picture”. The game began a series of cultural exchanges in the form of pictures taken of our everyday lives. The idea was to take a snapshot of specific themes with a brief explaining text and send it to the WhatsApp chat. Our team proposed a different theme for each day until the beginning of the workshop, e.g. the view from your window, an object that tells something of who you are, your favourite colour, etc. The game received active participation from both our team and the Bhutanese students with many beautiful pictures and especially, a lot of fun, which helped us to be ready for the start of the intensive workshop.

Workshop day 1: Introductions and Breaking the Ice

The first day acted as a refresher to activate our minds and connect the thoughts. The main theme for the workshop was to break the ice between the teams, by giving an opening activity called Things in Common competition. After that, we provided a presentation in half an hour to introduce about the Life and Studies in Aalto and in Finland for the Bhutanese students to get to know more about the Finnish culture. Then, the working progress of each team was presented, followed by a workshop opening presentation by the roving ambassador for South Asia, Harri Kämäräinen. In this presentation, Mr. Kämäräinen had emphasized on the relationship and interaction between students of Finland and Bhutan. From his perspective, there are many dimensions in our life that we can learn from each other. Bhutan is being known for its uniqueness and by exchanging ideas, we will understand more about different customs. Under the current climate change situation, by dealing with it together, it is possible to narrow down the distance between the countries.

Workshop day 2: Activities prepared by JNEC Students and initiating the discussions about the project outputs

Most of the time on day 2 was hosted by the JNEC team. The Bhutanese students had helped us to organize some activities to introduce about their culture, as well as to elaborate their working process regarding the landslide susceptibility analysis. The day started with a boedra welcome dance shown by the Bhutanese team, along with the zhungdra and rigsar songs. Many Bhutanese traditional dances are meant for good luck and happiness. After that, their mid-review presentation was provided, clarifying the causative factors for the landslide analysis: Road, Land use and Land cover, Settlements, Soil and Slope. Some other Bhutanese cultural aspects were also introduced, for example, their traditional dress and food recipe. JNEC’s session closed with a Dzongkha language learning activity, which brought us a lot of fun and laughing together. At the end of day 2, we initiated the discussions about the information package, which is preliminary called “The Handbook of Landslides”, to let us brainstorm and prepare for the main discussion on day 3.

Workshop day 3: Discussions about Landslides and “The Handbook of Landslide”

Day 3 focused on our actual working topic – Landslides. To bring back the feeling of calmness and joy after two intensive days, we began day 3 with a short meditation session. This activity helped us to relax our bodies and our minds, in order to be more productive for this last workshop day. Then, we were glad to again have Philipp Schmidt-Thomé from The Geological Survey of Finland with his presentation on landslide risk assessment from a stakeholder communication point of view. He pointed out that we should clarify our project objectives and outputs by defining the values of the project, considering the gap in the knowledge of landslides within the local community. The following activity was a highly active discussion on the information package as an output of our project. We came up with the final decision, that the package will be produced in a form of a handbook, including general information on landslides with infographics and the landslide susceptibility map made by the Bhutanese team as a core. The proposed contents for the handbook include, e.g., the causes of landslides, how landslides affect people’s life, solutions for preventing, signs of landslides, human activities that increase the risk of landslides and contact information under emergency.

We were happy that the workshop had been organized well under the compact timetable, even though we still faced some technical issues when working remotely. After the workshop, we continued discussing with the Bhutanese team via our WhatsApp channel. The finalizing phase of the project is approaching; therefore, our team is working hard on completing our media release, final report and especially “The Handbook of Landslide”.