Process debrief of the miti capstones workshop
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:
What could be improved: