Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lessons Learned While Learning Lessons

I spent the past couple of days at a edited volume workshop in Waterloo, Ontario.  The basic theme is what can Canada learn from its various interventions over the past twenty years for the book series "Canada Among Nations." This is a different kind of edited volume than the first one I edited.  For the previous one, I had to get money from various agencies, ask a friend to serve as co-editor, plan the actual event (location, dinner, etc) and then hustle publishers to find one that would be willing to publish the product.  We ended up with a publisher that likes to charge a lot of money and make money from the libraries that buy the book but otherwise bury the book.  Alas.

This time, it is a book in a series with various arcane rules and practices that I have learned along the way.  Each year NPSIA, my school, selects someone to be the editor.  In the past few years, this effort has been in partnership with a think think--the Centre of International Governance Innovation or CIGI.  CIGI is attached to the Basillie School of International Affairs, which, in turn, is attached to U of Waterloo and Wilfred Laurier U.  The partnership means that there was already money attached, a location (at CIGI hq in Waterloo), a publisher (CIGI) and a co-editor.  So, much less of the hard work that was involved in the process. 

What did I learn along the way?
  • The new CIGI building is pretty beautiful, and the chairs in the conference room were very comfy (rolled a wee bit too fast--we should have had races). 
  • The Delta hotel across the street is very new, has great food (slow service) and a strange option of free bad wifi or you can pay for good wifi. This is strange since Waterloo is supposed to be the Silicon Valley of Canada--CIGI and Basillie were funded by the guy who founded Research in Motion--the Blackberry company.
  • That we did a great job of finding contributors.  I chose most but not all of them.  They made for a very good group, as everyone offered very constructive suggestions for each other's papers--the point of the workshop.
    • Some noted that the group had a good gender balance--six of the twelve papers  presented were written by a woman or by a team with a man and a woman.  I did not have to do much hard work to make sure that women were will represented as there are plenty of smart women doing interesting work on the general topic.  To be clear, others who put together edited volumes seem to have a "thinner binder full of women" or a limited imagination or whatever and produce books that have only token representation. So, I guess the mix we got was notable even if it should not be.
    • Others noted that it was a mixed group in terms of age with both junior and senior scholars.  I was deliberate about that--it just worked out that way since I tend to network down and sideways more than up.   
  • That David Welch, who runs the CIGI podcast, is super-smooth.  He hosted me as we conversed about this project as well as my recent and future projects.  It should be going up soon and I will link to it here.
  • That it is time for to stop playing the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer bit about Canadian politics. Saying that I don't understand Canadian political practices and institutions because I am new to the country seems to get old after being here for twelve plus years.  I got called on that this week at the workshop.
  • I learned that my affection for sauces works better than other ways to talk about some concepts.  When I referred to the shorthand term for Responsibility to Protect via R2P and added -ness to it, well, it created more laughs and distraction than I was aiming for. 
  • That arranged marriages can be chock full of surprises.
Oh, and for the actual lessons learned about Canadian interventions?  Still trying to figure that out.

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