Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash. [Image description: a green mug sits on a wooden table next to a laptop that shows a Zoom meeting with 20+ people on screen.]

The effects of COVID-19 on collaboration would make for an interesting study. Since starting my publishing degree, I’ve found myself working with others more than ever before, and gratefully so. Zoom meetings have provided necessary contact with not-completely-familiar faces, and served as a reminder that there is a world out there, past the few people I meet for walks. 

Have these projects been pursued, and approached with such enthusiasm, because of their collaborative nature? Not consciously, but it’s possible that solitary projects have been put on the back burner in favour of anything that brings much sought-after contact.

[Image description: graphic for SYP Scotland’s 2021 conference, with ‘Ctrl Alt Refresh’ on a laptop screen, next to a lamp.]

One such project was SYP Scotland’s 2021 conference. From November to March, I ‘met’ with the rest of a small committee to organise ‘Ctrl Alt Refresh’ – a panel-packed, two-day event and SYP Scotland’s first digital conference. It was unfamiliar territory for most of us, to create something that a year before would have been totally alien. What would have been extensive preparation leading up to shared frantic excitement (in previous years with physical events), was extensive preparation leading up to lots of action on the Slack channel. 

I learnt so much from being on the conference committee, as I have done with all of these collaborative projects, and my confidence has grown with that. It has been a delight to get to know and work with people from a range of backgrounds – in education, employment, culture – who have each brought new skills and opportunities to learn with them. 

These experiences have been validating too, and helped to reveal my own skill set. They’ve shown areas where I’m not only useful but fundamentally valuable to the success of a project. Without the pandemic encouraging me to take up these team activities, would I have learned so much – about the work and myself – independently? Probably not. 

It does feel odd to have organised a conference without knowing what your peers look like in three dimensions. I imagine it will be similarly odd once other projects wrap up, when the Bleeding Free education pack is printed, and when the Fortunate Voyager team hold physical copies in our hands.

I am grateful nonetheless for the unusual informalities that have been brought about by COVID collaboration. Bonding over just how many people have that IKEA lamp is only possible when you see each other exclusively from the comfort of your living room. 

I have cherished these Zoom connections, and am grateful to have been able to make them. I know that many have found collaboration impossible and I’m lucky that lockdown has made me embrace teamwork, while others have turned inwards. With the world opening up again, I hope that those people find their way back, and I continue to be enthused by such activities.