Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Speed Up-Dating: Views from a Guest Blogger

This post was contributed by Caroline, a member of our Learning Team, and today our guest blogger. She writes about a recent strategic planning meeting we held to develop our main programme goals for the next four years. She writes...

In the first morning of our 3-day meeting, 25 people gathered for the first time in several years. So many updates, so little time! To have formal presentations of the work done and ongoing activities from all participants and all parts of the world would takes hours (if not days!), yet in one hour all people were updated sufficiently for the time being, and equipped with the knowledge of who to go to find out more. How? Speed Up-Dating! To prepare for the activity, everyone wrote a few words about what they wanted to discuss on their name badge. Then, the hour was divided into eight segments (15, 10, 10, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5 minutes) which the facilitator timed, and in those time periods people were invited to find other people with similar discussion themes, or ones they wanted to hear more about.

What happened? Once the activity officially started, half the group went straight to one place – there was an obvious lead speaker who initiated discussion, but questions were soon being fired and the group reached a discussion stage a lot earlier than if it had been a formal presentation. People started offering their own experiences (potentially feeling more comfortable about this than if they were in a formal presentation setting). The conversation was rich, and there was input from nearly all participants. Elsewhere three people had found a computer and logged on for a 1-to-1 tutorial about an online toolkit, given by the author to someone really keen to learn how to use it. The two could engage in a productive conversation about it, tailor the explanation directly to the learner’s needs, and both got much more value out of the session than if it had been in a larger group.

These were just 2 examples of groups that formed in the group … the room was buzzing with activity in other group formations as well.

So why did it work? Everyone was given a role as learner - rather than changing roles back and forth between learner and presenter, the responsibility was put onto all learners to identify what they wanted to discover, to decide how best to do this, and to source their own learning opportunity themselves. As soon as someone feels ownership or responsibility over something they are part of, they invest in it more, and are more keen to see success. Basically the learners are actively investing in what they take away, and choosing to learn – two recipes for success that were proven in this occasion!