Report from Fellows' Seminar 1999

Fellows discuss IIRE's future course

Every participant in a session at the IIRE writes a balance sheet at the end of the session, and these remarks and suggestions are important for the content and format of future sessions. But because our Fellows come from all over the world, it is not easy to bring permanent staff and collaborators together to collectively exchange experiences with sessions and discuss future activities. In February 1999, however, many of our regular co-workers met in a rare IIRE Fellows' meeting, to draw a balance sheet of our activities over the last couple of years and to brainstorm about future sessions. It was a very productive meeting, in which many ideas emerged to improve the quality of our work, immediately or in the longer term.

Type of activities

One of the main conclusions was that we have to differentiate more among four different types of sessions the IIRE (can) organize, and be clearer about their different goals and target groups:
a) Educational sessions such as the youth schools, women's schools, and New Questions schools. These are for organizations' cadres who already have had elementary education. The institute will continue to organize and reserve a budget for two or three such sessions every year, as a priority. When possible lecturers will attempt to experiment with the format of the presentations, such as: reports of 2 times 45 minutes plus discussion; a more improvised report based on questions posed by the participants; or a round table.
b) Sector meetings should be considered for activists working in the same field. These meetings, for which no money is available, should ideally combine co-ordination and practical exchanges with programmatic elaboration and analysis.
c) Seminars, such as the Economists' Seminar and Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual Strategy Seminar. In seminars we bring together participants knowledgeable and active on a specific terrain. For a seminar papers are produced beforehand, and are only briefly introduced for discussion in the meeting itself. Ideally, a seminar should lead to a publication. There is only a very limited budget for travel to seminars, so these activities should normally pay for themselves. On that condition, the number of seminars can in principle be multiplied, and collaborators are invited to propose (and prepare and organize) seminars to (and with) the permanent staff. Several concrete proposals were made, such as a feminist seminar and a seminar on globalization.
d) Ernest Mandel Study Centre (EMSC) seminars can attract a broader audience, as we saw with the first one, and lead to a book (now already published in several languages).

Preparation and centralization of sessions

Based on years of experience with lecturing in sessions, many ideas came up to improve lecturers' preparation, and to increase the coherence of sessions: a) We will continue efforts to improve the gender balance of mixed sessions. b) The staff will send out to all lecturers a more detailed programme of every session with more indications of what should be covered in the different reports.c) The staff will encourage all lecturers to include gender as a factor in their topics. d) The staff will send outlines of reports done during the session (in so far as this is important to know) to the lecturers who will come later in the program, to avoid repetitive reports.e) Lecturers will be encouraged to type out their reports and to put them into a Working Paper/Document de travail, including reading lists if possible.

Finally, there were some exchanges about the way we use our building, most importantly suggestions for a possible re-organization of the library and office space. This is clearly a longer-term discussion.