Recently we had quite a shocking experience when trying to organise a small, one-day meeting with a few selected project partners to discuss some pending and pressing issues related to the next 9 months of activities. It might have had something to do with the summer which was just around the corner at that time, or the (now proven) elevated anticipations towards the FIFA World Cup, but in any case, regardless of the excuses, certain ways of conducting business cannot be accepted.
The event was scheduled to take place at our premises. After having conducted a thorough Doodle poll to find a suitable date 8 weeks before the proposed meeting, a detailed agenda was drafted and all the necessary organisational steps (venue, catering, etc.) were carried out to ensure everything was going to run smoothly. We had confirmations from all parties involved that they are very pleased about the topics to be covered, they are keen on contributing and they were looking forward to visiting Budapest in general (for it is an excellent location to have meetings year around, though I will not go into the usual tourist catch-lines and buzz words to make you believe that. Most of you already know that, the rest will experience it later on.) Back to our meeting.
I should have been prepared for what was coming since all the preparations went so easy, that if nothing else, this should have given me some warning signs. The meeting was scheduled to be on a Thursday. On Monday morning I had a call from one of the partners, who had confirmed their attendance that they would not be coming. I “liked” their reasoning the most, though at least they bothered to give me some explanation. He said that they are unwilling to spend any more on this project (including travelling to mandatory meetings) until their previous costs and financial efforts will be reimbursed, despite they are bound by the Grant Agreement to comply with the coordinator’s project related requests, (which also guarantees that they will not suffer any losses while in the project).
Correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t you participating in an EU project in order to improve your organisation partly financed by the Union? Instead they chose to act like a spoiled kid who got offended about the fact that he was asked to meet certain requirements even without an immediate remuneration package. I had to fly with this situation since there weren’t much I could have done about it in such a short timeframe. The upside of the story is that their 3-day notice gave me enough room to act accordingly in terms of the pre-ordered services, bookings and catering.
On Wednesday night, way after office hours, I received an email (which I read only on the morning of the meeting, the following day) in which another partner, whose presence was much anticipated and who was very keen on contributing to the topics, let me know in a very apologizing way that they were not able to catch the coach to Budapest. Apparently there were some crazy weather with storms and flooding in their hometown and that is why they never made it to the coach station on time, and the driver waited neither for them nor for some other passengers. The other services with the same destination were fully booked leaving them stranded without the chance of participating at the meeting. This force majeure event was considered only bad luck with even worse timing.
The final slap came on the very morning of the meeting, when at 7:41 an email landed in my mailbox in which a third partner (also from a neighbouring country) indicated that they were not to come (no explanation) but they made us sure that in the future they are willing to attend any project related events and gatherings. I am not sure about you, but I do not even cancel a party at my next-door buddy 2 hours before it is supposed to start yet alone cancelling an official and well-ahead announced project meeting without even coming up with at least an obvious but plausible excuse.
The meeting was initially planned to host 15 people. Half of them got cold feet or had bad luck, the rest faced challenges to show up on time. The 10 am meeting started at 11:30 and concluded at 2pm two hours earlier than originally planned. The purpose of the meeting, namely to share the baseline of the activities with all relevant partners partly failed, but the feedback from those who made it was encouraging. At this stage, so close to the end of the project, the coordinator has only a limited set of tools to motivate the partners, but it has to make it straight that until the project officially ends, it is responsible for its progress and the project got that far because of the cooperative work of the partners. Some future “motivational measures” are currently under development on our side which hopefully will ensure that the next 18 months until the project’s end will go by without any of the above explained, ignorance and fussiness-fuelled events and will let us to finalise this great project successfully.