As ice melts in the Arctic, the rest of the globe feels the repercussions. “What happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic anymore,” Kamil Jagodzinski says. “It has a big impact on the world.”
The Arctic Portal helps the world understand that impact. The organization executes research, development and outreach projects that facilitate cooperation among private and public Arctic stakeholders, such as member states of the European Union (EU) and the Arctic Council. “We serve as a knowledge broker for Arctic information and data,” Mr. Jagodzinski says.
Last year the organization, which is funded by the EU and Icelandic national authorities, began expanding its project portfolio in order to take on initiatives with a deeper, more lasting impact. To oversee the evolving portfolio, the organization brought on Mr. Jagodzinski, who had spent the previous seven years as a project manager at the University of Lapland's Arctic Centre in Rovaniemi, Finland.
The organization was focused on smaller projects that lasted from one to two years, but our director thought it would be better in terms of our longevity and efficacy to get involved in longer, bigger projects and strengthen our expertise on end-user engagement, data management and strategic planning. To get the portfolio to that level, he decided to establish a stronger project management practice and hire a project practitioner trained in planning these proposals.
“It's very difficult to get people, for example, from Shell and Greenpeace to sit down and discuss Arctic drilling and oil extraction and remain calm and address the problem.”
What does your role entail?
I'm redesigning the Arctic Portal's portfolio and also planning and submitting proposals for five large research projects funded by Horizon 2020, the EU's biggest funding program for R&D. Each project would take three to four years to implement. We're transitioning from a rather hectic environment, where we tried to get any projects possible, to a portfolio with greater stability of funding and development. We're not just redesigning the portfolio; we're also diversifying and stabilizing it.
What ensures success with these project proposals?
It's about targeting the appropriate calls for proposals, knowing funders’ requirements, building the consortium and then planning the proposal. To plan a large research project with a budget of €8 million to €10 million requires a minimum of four months’ time, including communicating with partner institutions.
Can you describe a few of these larger research projects?
One involves advanced weather prediction in polar regions and beyond—linking the climate changes in the Arctic to changes in midlatitudes. For this project, we'll partner with meteorological centers and research institutes, and our role will be to communicate the science to stakeholders, mainly in the private sector. We serve as a translator of science, while also dealing with data management.
For another project, called the Arctic Renewable Energy Atlas, we will collect renewable-energy best practices—from Russia, Scandinavia, Iceland, Greenland, Canada and the United States—and enable these countries to learn from each other. If we show there's a school in Finland that has the largest solar panels in Scandinavia, then other countries can learn to establish similar practices.
You're working with a wide range of stakeholders, then.
At the center of all our projects is stakeholder management. What we fundamentally do is manage different expectations and needs and try to get people to work together to achieve shared objectives. We have stakeholders from many different regions—a minister from Russia, a senator from Alaska, an official from the prime minister's office in Iceland. It's very difficult to get people, for example, from Shell and Greenpeace to sit down and discuss Arctic drilling and oil extraction and remain calm and address the problem.
How do you handle that challenge?
First, by earning trust. Second, by developing a network. Even if we don't agree on everything, there has to be a lot of respect and friendly discussions. Despite the fact that the Arctic is a huge region, it's also a very small community. We know almost all the stakeholders in the region, so it's easy to pick up the phone and check in. Whether you're in Siberia or Greenland, we have common challenges.
How do you determine the value of project management to your organization?
We look at our partners’ and customers’ satisfaction. The level of trust between us and our partners has grown. They see that our organization has invested in a professional manager who has success submitting proposals, which encourages them to partner with us. Our organization has only about 10 people, yet we're currently involved in four large project proposals involving institutions that have from 600 to 800 people and a lot of Arctic infrastructure, such as research stations or icebreakers. We're involved in these projects because of our expertise in science communication and data management—and strong project and stakeholder management are critical factors in the success of these projects. PM
What's the one skill every project manager should have?
Commitment—and by commitment I mean engagement, communication and leadership. Project management is a service. To serve other people, you have to be committed to them.
What's the best professional advice you ever received?
“Learn to recognize when speed is not important.… It's sometimes vital to strike the last blow, to give the final answer or to arrive after everyone else.” It's from a Star Wars Jedi master.
What's your favorite off-the-clock activity?
Skyrunning—a discipline of mountain running. You have to run above 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) at a minimum incline of 30 percent. It helps me to reconnect with nature and recharge my batteries.