As I start wrapping up my fellowship, I would like to share the model (plus some tips) for organizing the Saturday Sessions. Our hope is that the fellows continue to nurture a learning community.
Type of Event: There is no specific type! You are free to organize whatever suits the topic and learning community. Explore what works – knowledge café, innovation sprint, hackathons, town halls, ignite talks! We try to keep it to 90 minutes on a Saturday, from 11 am- 12:30. There have been suggestions to do it on a Friday after work.
Principles: While we are not limiting the type of event, there are a few principles which we tried to abide by when conducting the sessions:
- Session topics are demand-led – Discussants are free to propose topics they’d like to have a session on, but we strive to prioritize topics that speak to the needs of the fellows. I mean sure, making origamis would be loads of fun, but we reckon “doing development differently” would be relevant and urgent to our field.
- Participants shape the agenda – Either before or during the session, the facilitator takes stock of what the participants hope to take away, which shape the agenda of the session
- It’s a safe space for real conversations – Participants would have different perspectives and levels of understanding, and we celebrate this! The session is a safe space for everyone to voice their ideas and opinion without fear of judgment. Having said that, fellows are expected to have an open mind
- We learn from each other – While we have lead discussants, it’s a two-way learning opportunity. Everyone is encouraged (not pressured!) to share their thoughts and we all learn from each other
- It’s light-touch – We are all busy. We strive the sessions to be informal (no death-by-powerpoints please, unless really necessary), fun and informative.
- Good facilitation is key – one who is able to succinctly summarize and condense key points, segue from one idea to another, highlight questions that needed to be asked and encourage everyone to speak
- Facilitator/organizer and discussant should have a clear understanding of what would be the target take-away from the session. Usually, we ask ourselves – What is the one key message or skill that we would like the participants to take away with them after the session? And then work on a format and rough agenda from there
- While participants shape the agenda, we prepare a few questions and a flow for the session
- For communication, cast a wide net, but also do targeted dissemination. Visual invitation works. I use Canva – just take 5 minutes. For creative commons photos, my go-to’s are Unsplash, Pixabay, Pexels and Wikimedia Commons. Share on the Atlas Corps Facebook page. And then for the targeted dissemination, you can refer to the Atlas Corps Talent Directory to identify potential discussants and attendees and invite via email. Other channels for invitation – the DC bunch Whatsapp group and the DC FB chat group.
- Strive to document the session. Take and share the notes and photos for those who were not able to attend.
- List materials which can be shared with everyone, along with the notes and photos.
- Venue – Atlas Corps moved office, and could coordinate with Nino, Sara, Issam or the Atlas Corps staff for access. Channel square would also be an ideal venue.
- Lastly, encourage more fellows to organize sessions themselves. Teach, learn and grow together.