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Capstones Workshop Debrief

Process debrief of the miti capstones workshop

(Maja's notes)

The goal of this workshop was to kick-start four capstone projects for students of two courses: Masters in Human-Computer Interaction and Masters in Entertainment Technology. Each of the four projects had 4-6 students and 1-2 representatives of sponsoring organisations. Together with faculty, the group consisted of about 25 participants. The sponsors could stay two days max, students 3 days. Ideally this workshop would have been split into four separate sessions, so that each group could go through the whole process in their capstone project team. This would have required 8 facilitators (or a minimum of 4 with 4 assistants), which wasn't feasible. The challenge was to facilitate a workshop relevant to all 4 projects with one facilitator and two assistants (two faculty members - Simone Ashby and Valentina Nisi). We split the workshop into three parts: the first day all groups worked together to create overarching scenarios relevant to all capstone projects, the second day they would work in 4 capstone groups to deepen the scenarios in their specific contexts and the third day the students worked alone to prepare process presentations and decide on the next steps. Of course the first day was the most difficult: the group was large, so not everyone would get a chance to speak; we had to keep the question, criteria, drivers and scenarios broad enough to be relevant to all 4 projects which meant that we couldn't dig into specific issues and hence the scenarios could have been too general or abstract; for busy sponsors who have taken two days out of their work it might seem a waste of time not to focus on their project directly from the beginning (which is what the faculty were most worried about).

In addition to the multiple-projects-not-enough-facilitators challenge, we also had a space that might have been big enough if it didn't have a large shelf all across the middle or the room. The shelf could not be moved. The objective of the workshop (kick-starting 4 projects) demanded have several breakouts for which we needed big tables that were additionally clogging the passages. There wasn't much space to move and it would have been quite claustrophobic had there not been one full wall of windows overlooking greenery. I came up with sessions (or parts of sessions) that could be done outdoors and in the corridor, that would allow us to air out the room and give the participants a chance to stretch out.

Challenges aside, the workshop achieved its objectives. The project teams felt quickly connected to each other; sponsors and students felt a sense of agency and clarity; they were excited about doing something that will be relevant outside of the institute; the scenarios helped sketch out a larger context within which they were developing their projects; they knew better where they definitely didn't want to go and had a set of criteria to help them check their progress. I'm curious to see how much of it will keep being used throughout the projects and whether the results will be checked against what the group(s) agreed to in the workshop.

What worked well:

  • when working with a large group break the conversation into smaller groups (single, dialogue, breakouts)
  • temperature dots have again proven to be a quick way to narrow down large sets of questions, factors and drivers
  • making the selection of critical uncertainties as a playful 'magic show' with one facilitator moving post-its along the important and uncertain axes creates a lot of energy in the group, with people yelling out less/more/more than that - so the relative ranking done visually with a line and a diamond seems to work very well
  • working with visual materials helps break the verbal/intellectual focus and refreshes both the thinking and the room.
  • having an outdoor space to have more physical and reflective sessions is a definite benefit (sociometry after the first day to spatially see the scenario and media preferences in the group; listening circle at the end)
  • great success criteria (done in dialogues, reporting back, facilitator clustering and visualising)
  • having 4 broad scenarios on the first day, then on the second making mood boards to 'customise' the scenarios per project
  • the students' presentations of the process: it was very interesting to hear how the students made the process their own and clearly pulled relevant information out of it.
  • remember to take group photos: even though it is cheesy, it helps with documentation.

What could be improved:

  • more clearly specify room requirements beforehand (how large should it be per person?)
  • we could have met with the sponsors beforehand to make them more comfortable with the first day, perhaps already shaping the question together with them
  • practice graphic harvesting…
  • discussion around macro trends was helped with STEEP cards (and tarot cards too), but still there is something that I still find lacking - research different existing methods and/or design new experiments (should the facilitators propose some of the trends beforehand, or should this be a discussion with the participants beforehand, so they already bring relevant material?
  • creating scenario skeletons needs 2 experienced facilitators to keep the dynamic conversation flowing. it was a bit difficult for me to keep writing, summarising and pulling relevant ideas out of the group.
  • when writing down the axes, they need to be crystal clear and the group has to agree they all understand the same thing, otherwise the scenarios remain too vague and inconsistent. we made two scenarios with one of the axes unclear, but we corrected it during the break, then revisited the scenarios we made to clarify them - which seemed to be quite a relief after some confusion (the first axes was low transformation ↔ radical transformation, the second incremental/phased impact ↔ radical transformation of lifestyles). spend more time on crafting the wording of the axes.
  • the second day we split the group in 4, so we gave written exercises per group and walked around helping when needed. this meant that the facilitator(s) could not have an overview of everything that went on in each group and could not support the process sufficiently. For example, the “5 whys” wasn't sufficiently challenging the status quo in some groups, perhaps because the students were asking the questions and the sponsors were answering - and the students didn't dare prod deeper; some of the core questions could have been more clearly phrased; one group had difficulties with “how to get from here to there”; the role-playing sessions weren't sufficiently scenario-specific, etc.
future_fabulators/capstones_workshop_debrief.txt · Last modified: 2014/02/10 06:27 by maja