Collaborative Event Planning
“We really appreciated all the planning, energy, clarity and wisdom through the whole sandpit process. You helped us to make decisions, using previous experiences to guide but not direct us. It was a great result, you were easy to work with and of course you were integral to the success of the sandpit.”
Gerard Davies and Rebecca Williams, EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council)
One of our specialist areas of facilitation is to bring together groups of complete strangers and support them to work together to form collaborative project teams. These teams have been behind a number of highly successful projects, working on ideas that are ahead of their times and this all happens in 3-5 days. These collaborative events are often called Innovation Labs or Sandpits.
The planning for these events always starts many months ahead of the first day and involves a team of people who have sector expertise and our team who usually have no sector expertise at all but have a wealth of knowledge about how to get people to start collaborating.
Challenges of Collaboration
There are various challenges we need to address for these types of collaborative adventures:
- How do we bring everyone up to speed on the topic, when some people are specialists who do not usually work in this domain area?
- How can we support people who take longer to think and need more quiet time so that we do not lose them in the process?
- How do we create a collaborative culture in a competitive environment? (a typical innovation lab will assess project proposals live and not all will be funded)
- How do we make sure that at least some of the projects put forward will be funded?
To find solutions it is critical that we work together using everyone’s experience. We want to create an event that will meet the needs of the funders, the participants and the sector experts. Events like this are not taken off the shelf.
The Process of Collaboration
We start with an outline design which shows the different phases of the event and suggests different activities. This is then developed into a series of iterations until the look and feel of the event is right for everyone.
This process takes time for us all to commit to, it is the ultimate in collaborative working. We each contribute our specialist knowledge and use this to shape something together. The result will always exceed expectations because we have shaped something together, something that we all believe in and not just used what worked last time.