CYGNA: Positionality, team roles, and academic activism

47th CYGNA meeting, celebrating our 8-year anniversary with our first face-to-face meeting in 2.5 years

Since founding CYGNA in 2014 we had 30 physical meetings in London-based universities. When COVID-19 hit, we moved meetings online and conducted no less than 16 meetings virtually. Although this was very beneficial in maintaining our mutually supportive ethos during the pandemic, we all missed our physical meetings. So we were delighted when in May 2022 we were able to meet face-to-face again at the same place where our network started in June 2014.

It was a wonderful and joyous full-day meeting. The logistics were superbly organised by Argyro Avgoustaki (ESCP Business School). She had not just booked excellent rooms and catering, but also secured ESCP sponsoring for two presents - a CYGNA water bottle and a CYGNA cotton drawstring bag (see below) - as well as a professional photographer. Shasha Zhao had secured sponsoring by Surrey University for our anniversary cake (see above).

Our anniversary was organized as a hybrid meeting. Thirty-four members had registered for the in-person event and no less than 32 were able to make it. With a few walk-ins from ESCP it was a really nice audience. Small enough to not be too intimidating for newcomers and big enough for lots of unexpected encounters. Although most of our participants were from the UK, we had four international members joining us from France and Spain. We also had a good virtual participance, with some 16 academics joining in for (part of) the day.

CYGNA 8 year anniversary

Anne-Wil gave a brief introduction about the history of the CYGNA network. You can watch it here. The video and audio quality isn't great, but it gives you a feel for the vibe of the day. Part of the text of my introduction is also replicated below.

In June 2014 a small group of women met here at ESCP talking about the challenges we were all facing as female academics. Over lunch at the courtyard, we decided to set up an academic women’s network. In the first four years we met up 5 or 6 times a year with 8-10 women at different London based universities. The group varied in composition, but beyond the CYGNA organizing team – myself, Argyro and Ling, later joined by Shasha – there was a core group of 5 or 6 women who attended very regularly. Many of them are here today.

After the first couple of years, the network grew rapidly. From September 2018 onwards we had an average of 15-25 women attending our bi-monthly sessions. That is, until COVID-19 hit. Since then, we have organised no less than 16 meetings online. This allowed our international members to attend, leading our meeting numbers to soar to 35-55 participants per meeting. Many new members have joined us during the pandemic; we are currently approaching 300 members. As you know, we have created a membership survey and spreadsheet to facilitate networking amongst yourselves.

As virtual meetings are now so common and they have worked so well in the past 2.5 years - especially for our members outside London - we will continue to offer them. However, we will also aim to organise two physical meetings a year, one in December and one in May. So here we are in our first physical meeting coinciding with our 8-year anniversary. I hope you all enjoy it.

Positionality, reflexivity, and academic activism

Bianca Stumbitz, Clarice Santos (both Middlesex University, UK) had co-organised the event with Argyro and gave a stellar duo-presentation (download slides here). I love the way Bianca ended the presentation.

We are all dealing with capacity issues in our jobs all the time and it can really pull us down. So sometimes we can forget about the positive things in our job and the things that we can do to make a difference. Therefore, we just wanted to remind you of those, so that we can all be motivated to carry on.

An edited video of the presentation can be watched below. The audio and sound quality isn't perfect, but it will give you a good sense how inspiring the presentation was. We had a very lively discussion with input from many CYGNA members. However, their questions and comments have been edited out as they were largely inaudible.

When talking about positionality in research Clarice and Bianca mainly focused on qualitative research as they had more experience with that. However, you may also find this spirited exchange on Quantitative Research and Ethics interesting. It was led by one of my former colleagues at the University of Melbourne, Michael Zyphur.

Coincidentaly, Michael's co-author - Dean Pierides - was a PhD student at the University of Melbourne around the same time that Clarice was enrolled in the programme too. I was PhD director at the time. Who would have thought all three of us would find ourselves in the UK 15 years later. It is a small world!

Also highly recommended is Yvonne Kallane's presentation about surviving challenging fieldwork. Thoughtprovoking doesn't even come close to describing her reflections!

Team roles

After lunch we were treated to a second inspiring and very practical presentation by Daniela Lup (ESCP Business School, UK). Daniela is one of our longstanding CYGNA members. In 2018 and 2020 she contributed two excellent sessions:

For this meeting, she shared her insights on Belbin Team Roles: Making the Team and Finding One’s Best Role (download slides here). Unfortunately, the photographer had left after lunch, so we have to make do with one of our amateur pictures.

Pictures of the event

Having a professional photographer meant we have lots of nice pictures of the event. Here is a small selection. Apologies if you are one of the attendees that has not been captured by the photographer. Below, we have tried to include every participant who had organized meetings and/or given presentations in the past 8 years.

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