How to design an eight part series of innovation and entrepreneurship workshops
Introduction & Inspiration
When making a landscape canvas of the I&E climate on campus, the leadership circle in Dalhousie made several observations. One of the most important was the lack of a program or event that introduced students to entrepreneurial and innovative thinking. From engineering to the arts, they considered activities in which students get hands-on experience with I&E a great opportunity to introduce student to I&E and to inspire and empower students. To maximise impact, they set out and created an eight-series workshop on I&E of 2.5h each that was open to students from all disciplines. Based on their experience, this wiki provides a useful starting guide on how to design and lead a workshop series on I&E.
Identifying your target audience is the first step towards organizing a workshop series. Workshops for students new to entrepreneurship and workshops catered to students with start-up experience will have different focuses. Workshops for beginners could focus more on design-thinking and prototyping. Workshops for more experienced students can focus on funding and creating a great team environment.
After identifying the demographics of your audience, work to outline your 8 workshop topics. Of course, these topics can be changed if needed. It is recommended that the UIF team have one-hour meeting each week to organize the workshop. One member should be the point person for one workshop. That can be the same person for every workshop, or the faciliator role can be rotated throughout the team. Ideally the point person would be the team member with the most experience with the workshop topic. If that is not possible, don't be afraid to reach out to faculty members.
Once you have completed a rough outline and come up with a brandname for the sessions, you are ready to start promoting. Meanwhile, it’s time to plan the workshops in more detail, so think of themes, activities, and a detailed schedule for each workshop. Inviting local business owners, or faculty members, to present at your workshop is a great way to engage the community. During your initial planning meetings decide who you will invite and what would like them to present about. As a courtesy you must give them as much time as possible. Also, plan back-up schedules, to avoid any last minute scrambles.
When planning the schedule of your workshops determine if time for networking would be beneficial for your audience.
In order to get a good turnout and have substantial impact on the campus community, is it important to properly promote the series of workshops.
- It is key to go out and greet passersby, advertising the events not just for the sake of it but by stressing that everyonecould benefit from them and there is always something new to learn
- Plan early and make participation easy, so that anyone can just show up, regardless of their level of involvement in innovation/business, as this is about entrepreneurship
- To encourage continuous attendance, consider establishing a certification program, so that participants get a certificate of some value if they attend all of the workshops
- Encourage participation through making the workshops engaging by incorporating lessons, providing snacks, and hosting interesting speakers for facilitation
- Everyone is important in promotion; the support of the students, team, and speakers is necessary--if you don’t have enough of these people, lower the frequency of the workshops per week to make it more manageable
- Have a marketing/business person to send out email reminders or Facebook invitations and posts (a channel to the outside)
- Book the space in advance and get people committed
- Record the workshops through audio recordings, video recording, Facebook Live, and/or just saving the PowerPoint presentations for later reference; participants highly appreciate material to go back to
Logistics: Keeping things on time in a workshop with a lot of activities and information is essential to practice. Only with the experience you will get better and better with this.
Some people don't have the strength to go into unknown areas so YOU have to start the conversation. Also it is important to promote our values so everyone who takes part of the workshop is aware of them.
For keeping motivation high and preventing drop-outs during the workshops, you can think about offering the participants a certification at the end of the workshops. Requirements for the certificate can be attendance at 6 out of 8 workshops or an end-deliverable during the final workshops.
For future workshops, it is imperative to improve the ones that were held, through evaluations and feedback.
The workshops must not be only focused on design thinking and innovation, but focused on what the customers, the participants, want and need.
- It’s important to get feedback from the participants. If possible, after every workshop. In doing so, you can improve the workshop for next session or for next workshop.
- In every workshop, there is the fear of delivery. And it doesn’t matter if only 5 or 10 people go, what is important is to keep pushing and keep doing the workshop.
- There has been a great interest in the doing the workshop next year. Although, an issue that is being currently working on is the timing of the workshop, because the aim is to fit everyone's schedule.
Tuesday Take-Offs - Example of an I&E workshop
From Sep to Nov 2016, the 2016 Spring UIF fellows from Dalhousie organized the Tuesday Take-Offs, a free series of I&E workshops open to all students interested. With the primary goal of getting students in touch with I&E thinking, the fellows designed a brand and workshop outline, check it out!