The first half of the year is over and it has been a hard and exceptional one for all members and employees of the European cooperative EQAsce. It was shaped by the corona pandemic which lead to a lockdown for months, working at home and daily phone- and video conferences.
EQAsce: How did the EQAsce head office come through this time?
Chairwoman of the EQAsce board, Prof. Dr. Brigitte Petersen: Contrary to many service providers and organizations for the agri and food sector, we were lucky to not full stop all our activities. We even became more active by providing information and keeping our members, customers of systematic relevance for food supply and networks up to date. That was done in a cooperative association with GenoAkademie and the Animal Health Agency TiGA eG since the middle of March. We provided information, knowledge and experience and we created new digital solutions like webinars, an online video library, an online learning platform for many target groups and the format of an online forum for discussion. As it has been before – this crisis-situation has been a catalyst and a chance to all developments that had already been on EQAsce’s agenda for years. The aims of our digitalization strategy come into focus and push our initiatives and public funded projects.
EQAsce: What are the challenges of the second half of the year?
Prof. Dr. Brigitte Petersen: After summer break, nothing will be as it has been before the corona pandemic. We rely upon our strong networks and our capabilities for flexibility, cooperation, innovation and participative communication – founded for sure in the success story of cooperatives – to design our services and to efficiently connect digitalization and qualification. Through the participation of several partners from research and economy, we can foster our 2019 started initiative QVIREA and we trust upon the practical experience and competence for solution finding of our network. Based on the funding of the Landwirtschaftliche Rentenbank, we shall be able to develop and test important new digital modules for qualification for persons working in the agricultural keeping of animals. Part of our digitalization strategy is to integrate our various customers of EQAsce-services into the development of digital solutions at an early stage. At this point, we trust in crowd intelligence – the knowledge of many.
We have started a 200-days-testing of our digital cards with two target groups on June 15th. One group consists of students of academies and universities and of our EQAsce junior members. They will be testing our services including the “Digital Academic Career Card” until the end of December. The other group consists of managers in animal keeping enterprises. They will be testing the concept of the “Digital Basic Card+” (digital qualification card) that was jointly developed with the animal health agency TiGA e.G. and system developers. The card facilitates the obligation to proof a qualification and authorization to measures for improving animal welfare and health. Starting with January 1st, 2021, many amendments come into force which need conditions for nationwide capacities for qualification and a centralized platform for applying for proofs of expertise and abilities. All sides involved are standing under time pressure because the corona pandemic has blinded official administrative bodies to the need of personal and institutional investment that must be undertaken in the second half of the year.
EQAsce: What is EQAsce’s plan to stay in dialogue with members of international networks and initiatives that have been set in the past years also by the engagement of EQAsce?
Prof. Dr. Brigitte Petersen: The cooperation of networks on European level is currently directed to the new EU Commission program of the farm-to-fork-strategy and the Green Deal. We focus on the further development of existing standards for personal certification in our focus areas “education” and “qualification” for the sectors agriculture, food industry, environment and public health care. Our focus groups consist of responsible persons and actors of single entity and corporate bodies in these fields that deal with quality-, risk-, and crisis management – including public and private service bodies. To the boards of the most important standard providers of the branch, we already recommended to follow and define not only product and process oriented requirements, but person related requirements as well. Connected to this, we will find out through studies how the standard “safety culture ladder” (SCL) – which focusses on the behavior of decision makers in enterprises and organizations – can be transferred to the people working in branches of systemic relevance. Thus, the EQAsce-team has a lot of things coming and will take a pause for regeneration to have enough energy for all the tasks after summer break.