Social Challenge Encounters (SCE) is a student-run group that aims to fill the gap in knowledge and discussions around social sustainability topics at Kiel University. In November the group hosted an innovative and interactive two-day workshop. This after action report outlines the student‘s experiences.
Text: Kathryn Grant, Henriette Scholz, Jana Wilkening,
Daniel Flores and Hollyn Hartlep (SCE-Team)
supported by PerLe funding for innovative teaching
1. Main Goals
Perspectives of Empowerment was a two-day workshop, with the goal of inspiring participants to think about issues of sustainability from different perspectives with solutions in mind. Participants were to leave feeling empowered to make change in their local community by being linked up with initiatives addressing issues discussed, as well as meeting other concerned and enthusiastic individuals. Issues of sustainability can at times feel daunting and overwhelming, and because of this the workshop aimed to have an action-oriented and reflective nature, avoiding a mere presentation of startling facts. This was to particularly address people without a sustainability background. The workshop events were framed around the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): (1) No Poverty, (2) Zero Hunger, (5) Gender Equality, (10) Reduced Inequalities, and (16) Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions. Moreover, the event was held entirely in English to attract international participation.
2. Planning Calendar
3. Project Funding → Etti
- PerLe: 7060,40 Euros for event series (TOTAL)
- Nord (Regionale Netzstelle Nachhaltigkeit): 500,00 Euros for Hive Mind Game
- Geographisches Institut: 240,00 Euros for Thinkfarm room rental
- AStA: 150,00 Euros for printing of flyers
4. Group Organization
At the initial planning stages, we all added input and ideas equally on how we wanted to make these workshops a reality. For the first workshop, we divided some tasks based on skills, including: design, logistics, and marketing. For the second workshop, we created distinct roles that people were in charge of, including: contacting speakers, marketing, logistics, and organizing the student-led activities. Of course, we all helped in various sections depending on what needed to be done, but it helped to have people in charge to look over each section.
Decisions were made generally as a group, but the person in charge of a section had the most say and could decide if they wanted to consult the group or not. We usually consulted the group before making decisions, and definitely for all large decisions.
- Room booking: We booked the rooms with Alte Mu, through Robin and Felix (Felix Wenning: firstname.lastname@example.org) for 120 euro per day.
- Food Sharing SH e.V.: First of all, it is important to note that there are two initiatives which save food in Kiel. Because they do not get along well, only one of the two should be contacted and asked for support. We contacted Food Sharing SH e.V. six weeks before the event; it took a few weeks for their confirmation and the finalization of the details. In the end, it worked out very well and we had a lot of snacks, bread rolls, sweet bakery products and sandwiches, but this was not certain until one day before the actual event. It is a very good opportunity to raise awareness of food waste and provide a free lunch, but at the same time it is not possible to know how much food will be provided and therefore, one should have alternative solutions in mind (and be prepared to change plans last minute).
- Finding speakers: First, we defined the SDGs we wanted to focus the workshop on. Then we reached out to people we knew to give us ideas of speakers that would fit into these areas. Frauke was especially helpful in connecting us with potential speakers, and we also got ideas from people we met in our own networks before as well. We then contacted speakers through email first, explaining our workshop, and then arranged a skype call to discuss what and how they could put together their workshop in an interactive way.
- Event setup and transitions: We had fifteen minute breaks in between each workshop to allow time for room transitions. Chairs, tables, projectors and flip-charts were rearranged before each speaker session. For future events, we will allow about 30 minutes for breaks, as some sessions went over on time and participants suggested more break time in their feedback.
- Student Volunteer Activity Leaders: Potential student volunteer activity leaders enrolled at CAU’s School of Sustainability were contacted individually by written correspondence about their interest in participating. This worked well, as about half of those contacted agreed to participate. We believe that if an open call for participation would have been published, less volunteers would have solicited the volunteer positions. However, in hindsight, an open-call paired with individual messages may have achieved better results, yielding a higher number of volunteers and a broader scope of topics.
6. Lessons learned
Participant feedback from event
As anticipated, although we used a number of different methods, feedback returns remained at about 50%. Most notably, participants stated that they liked the design and learning methods of the whole event and further said that they found it inspiring, interactive and innovative. Nevertheless, the evaluation of each individual workshop varied quite a lot. The workshops that most people found inspiring were often the workshops or activities we had thought of as more innovative and diverse in view of content and teaching methods ourselves, such as the Hive Mind Game and Silas Lusias—From Scarcity to Abundance. Overall, the qualitative verbal feedback we received from participants was very enthusiastic, thankful and positive.
More than half of the participants (61.5%) criticized the time frame of the event (in terms of it being too rushed between events, not having enough breaks, and having interesting events going on at the same time) and about a tenth criticized the lecture style of some of the workshops (11.5%).
During our reflection of the event, we realized that many issues we had that should be considered the next time were related to a smaller number of participants during the event than what we had expected. Therefore, the biggest lesson learned for us was to realize that we should have started promoting the event much earlier and in more diverse ways. We underestimated the time and the extent needed to attract people’s attention for our event—this was also due to the relatively high number of participants at the first event and the comparably little promoting effort to reach these numbers.
Other factors influenced the number of participants which should be taken into consideration the next time include:
- events with similar target groups happening simultaneously
- starting time/day of the workshops (9 o’clock is too early for many participants and a Friday morning is not a very suitable day and time for many people in general)
The structure of the whole event had been designed for more people, which made it difficult to evaluate whether, for example, the parallel structure of two workshops at a time (which led to very differently frequented workshops, rushing of people from one workshop to another and the problem of overlapping workshops) was not beneficial or simply unsuitable for a smaller number of people. This might have been better compensated by longer break times (30 minutes instead of 15) to allow for people to attend all workshops. Further, we recommend calculating more buffer time to create a more relaxed atmosphere and time for reflection and exchange.
Another important insight we gained from the event is that it is beneficial for the quality and methods of the workshops to assist with and evaluate methods and content together with the speakers in advance. We noted a significant difference in creativity and variety of teaching methods between the workshops, even though we had highlighted the importance of innovative teaching style and methods from the beginning. We noticed a positive effect of guiding and supervising the student volunteer activity leaders (in form of two meetings before the event) on the implementation of creative and innovative teaching methods, compared to the main speakers (some of whom had a very lecture-like style).
Overall we were very satisfied with the course of the event: the atmosphere was nice and welcoming (as we had planned and hoped for), the participants were interested and engaged in the different activities. Furthermore, we had a good variety of social sustainability topics, speakers with different backgrounds and also participants from different fields and backgrounds.
Lastly, ending on a positive note, we gained the impression that we succeeded in creating an event which inspired people to think about the UN SDGs from different perspectives and helped them to feel empowered about their own potential partaking in sustainable solutions.
- The next SCE-Event will be Saturday, January 27th; find further details on facebook soon
- facebook-link: https://www.facebook.com/SocialChallengeEncounters/?ref=br_rs