The following post is a design challenge for our consideration, and also a provocation with respect to what constitutes a valuable outcome.
One of the outcomes from the Felucca Festival I’m witnessing, through conversations with participants is the ongoing friendships formed and relationships strengthened as the result of shared experience. This is for me the foundation of a good collaboration, but love and respect may sound to some like very wishy washy metrics with respect to development.
But friendship is essential, it’s at the core of a good network. Working relationships based upon money alone, don’t carry the weight and level of trust required to see them through. Projects that are held together by money, will fail as soon as the money dries up. Mutual passion, combined with respect, trust and understanding is therefore essential for good collaboration. Events such as the festival serve to strengthen these bonds and connections through shared experiences, as well as forging new ones.
Do people cry when leaving? Is a metric to be measuring. Do they run and hug each other or smile when talking another? Is there laughter resonating in the air? These are indicators of a good collaborative foundation, not number of attendees, gender documentation and a scale of 1-5 of how satisfied they were.
But let’s get to more tangible indicators of success.
The event is the beginning, not the end. So first we should consider when we choose to collect the data. Knowledge is nothing if it isn’t applied. Anyone can sit in a room, bag a certificate and then go home and forget about everything. What happens after the event is where our focus should reside.
Allow me to give an illustration from a small event we did in Alexandria.
Water and Air Filtration Prototyping
The objectives of this event were to:
Get people prototyping rather than discussing
Provide access to basic knowledge and to show what is possible to do with limited resources and knowledge
Connect Sahar (researcher, and inventor) with entrepreneurs in the icealex community
Demonstrate principles of open source through practice
Show people how to make water and air filtration devices
You will note that the title of the workshop is not the key objective. There are many more important things to consider than the workshop itself. However these things are best not expressed, it is better to simply allow people to experience them.
The workshop itself was a spontaneous preparation, based on the following solutions I developed based on the properties of activated carbon.
I invited Sahar as I knew from her discussions that she was experimenting with spirolina, which can be used for water purification and air cleaning. The process was to demonstrate the 2 principles, and how to make the straw, then invite people to prototype their own ideas or replicate the products I had demonstrated.
During the workshop, many straws were made, and experiments were conducted, we had maybe 8 people attend, these are tiny insignificant metrics when measuring quantitive impact.
It’s what happened after the event that’s important.
Sahar developed a carbon filtration mask with icealex
The above thread, also touches upon other projects born of conversations, overlapping passions and weaving people ideas and events. Next week Afrimakers will begin it’s tour of Africa in Alexandria. This project started at the Re:publica Global Innovation Lounge (again ensuring the right people had the chance to meet and inspire one another).
That was just the beginning, on my last visit to Alex they blew me away with the projects they were developing together.
Video below shows the projects, and progress. With Sahar a conductive ink project, and a water filtration system for informal communities. Plus a DIY laser cutter to fit in a backpack. You can also hear from the video how passionate they are about building and open source – this is the result of multiple activities and their own relationships with the topic.
These high energy collaborations are born from the relationships established at events, they happen in the gaps around the process, in the conversations that result. It’s critical that events leave room for such relationships to grow, as it is these that result in awesome projects and collaborations above and beyond any knowledge exchanged during the event itself.
So when we look at our data sets from impact it is important that we take care to step back and see the event in the context of peoples lives. I can track profound changes in my own life to key events and activities I have either participated in or facilitated, but the impact is often not understood until afterwards. Events change our views, they bring us together with others and form strong bonds between us, but if we only capture the first meeting we miss the journey that follows and the destinations on route. It is these impacts we should be measuring and these stories we should seek to tell. We cannot take full credit, we just create the opportunity, but the importance of events should be recognised, and we should take the time to maintain relationships with those we have affected in order that we may determine the true value of our contribution.
I can’t wait to see what happens next, when icehubs meets afrimakers.