Developer Roadshows/Lessons Learned
The following lessons learned were surfaced by participants (and organisers) during feedback sessions and along the road covering positives, negatives and suggestions.
- Calibrate the timing of milestones towards an event - see: Countdown to an Event and related notes at TacticalTech's Replication site and see the related notes on communicating objectives, ... etc.
- Transferring funds can take time (internal approval processes, banking controls, etc.). This especially important if the event is in a country other than the one in which the project is managed. For some countries, it is impossible to buy air tickets for people to travel when there is no stopover in the country in which the tickets are being bought.
- Manage expectations carefully with respect to the objectives, roles and activities, accommodation, etc.. This applies to partner organisations managing the event(s) and participants. For example, make it clear that this is a developer event and much of the time will be in a computer lab. Ensure those applying have a clear idea of what they are letting themselves in for at all levels.
- Be realistic about expectations for a one week event. There are many dependencies.
- Arrange one or more rapporteurs for the event to capture and post proceedings on a wiki site as the event unfolds.
- Identify and contact relevant exisitng local communities such as LUGs and educator forums etc. They may be willing to participate and help.
- Organise an off-site activity to add to the variety of activities - e.g. visit to a school with a computer lab. or some other relevant visit.
- Try to provide equal opportunities to all countries and language groups. For example, no matter how good your reasoning might be to start with English events (e.g. in southern or East Africa, followed by English with French translation, to French with English translation, culminating with best event(s) (with all the accumulated work so far) in French only events in West Africa, the participants may still feel they were left out until last as an after-thought. this also applies to local languages in any region.
- Try to be as inclusive as possible from the beginning and find relevant co-facilitators.
- Carefully design the balance of developers and educators with respect to their roles in the workshops.
- Have an external party (e.g. Womensnet, Wougnet, etc.) assist with the selection of participants with a view to improving the balance (e.g. wrt gender, country/regional representation, developers vs educators, ...).
- This requires championship via e-mail and wiki. Identify and mobilise champions early. At the West Africa event we reached a conclusion that these events should only be convened when called for by a community of developers/users who have reached a certain point (e.g. we have a working prototype which needs refinement via face-to-face interaction with educators (or other applicable users).
- Noise: a quiet environment is required. Even meal times are important for interaction and "creative/working dinners" etc.
- Check that the venue is not being shared by other events which might detract from the atmosphere.
- It is important to ensure that there is a suitable place for "morning circle" ‑ a tradition of the Source events (see Source Events). The value of morning circle is community building among the participants for the time together. It sets the tone for each day and ensures everyone is welcomed and starts the day by participating (every voice must be heard).
- Confirm 24/7 access to laboratory in advance to selecting the venue (or at least 0700 until 2100). Get this in writing if possible.
- An auditorium is an inappropriate place as it imposes a hierarchy ‑ "important" people in front facing the rest. Rather have a place which allows chairs to be arranged in a circle (hence "morning circle"), and ensure that everyone's voice is heard on equal terms.
- Choose a venue suitable for people with physical and other challenges.
- Ideally, this should all come with the venue. If not, use a reliable catering service, etc.
- Cater for vegetarian, Halal and other dietary requirements.
- Ideally, the accommodation should be at the venue. This simplifies transport logistics.
- Expect several iterations before arriving at a final programme.
- Keep it flexible, even during the event.