iBali: Getting Here

I love Chris’ imagery about people all over the world packing and preparing for our workshop. For me, for this trip, this idea has even more resonance than usual. Whenever you organise a workshop you hope that the people who come will get something out of it that has use and legs beyond the enthusiasm of the activities and discussion, so you’re always thinking about the ‘what next’. But for this workshop, because it is the launch event of the iBali *Network* the *what next* is the whole point.

The creative minds behind iBali are exciting me at every point: those involved in the intense, occasionally frantic, experience of writing the bid to a very tight deadline, the inspiration and skill that the core team has invested in the workshop planning; the wise insights drawn from decades of experience in the storytelling world (from all over the world) that the advisory group are sharing from afar; the unflappable patience of the research support staff at the OU, and our travel agent in South Africa, and crucially; the diverse backgrounds, identities and aspirations of the ECRs. All this, already, and we haven’t even properly started yet.

For me, packing is about making sure I’m not side-stepping all of the responsibilities of having young children. So as well as tying up lots of work ends, desperately trying to contribute as much as I can to a bid deadline that will be submitted while I am away and making sure my students are feeling confident with the work they’re doing over the next few weeks, this week has been spent frantically sewing an Easter Bonnet for the 5 year old’s school Easter Parade, supervising preparation for her end of term spelling test, making a ‘count down’ game so she can track the days until I’m home, wrapping presents for all of the birthday parties she’ll be attending and – as ever – trying to give equal time and attention to the toddler (who is excited about me going on a plane, but doesn’t really understand that this means that I won’t be at home).

So, life is busy - for all of us - and it won’t stop being busy while we are in Cape Town making it more so. And if we’re thinking in stories, then this isn’t the start of anything at all, but a part of something we’ve all been working towards – all across the world - as we have engaged with issues around young people, learning (or not learning), and how to better understand these issues, how to include, value and respect people in (and through) research, how to make research more interesting and useful for everyone. Until three months ago, we could never have known that our stories, built over decades, would come together this week – I can’t wait to turn the page.