Institution where I work (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center) is organizing every two years meeting of all research staff in Mexico to share experience, concerns, get updates on institutional services and policies – Science Weeks. The previous ones organized in 2006, 2008, and 2010 were bit frustrating to me – always series of loooong power point presentations (talk after talk after talk) followed by very short Q&A session and a maximum of interaction was achieved in some panel discussions. Well this year, finally a change happened:
After first morning of introduction, we have divided all participants (160) into 8 groups which were circulating among 8 stations (called Kiosks) – maybe somehow similar to “Gallery Walk”, but significantly different. The groups spend in each ‘Kiosk’ about 75 minutes. Each Kiosk was organized by 2-4 people with short presentations (max 1/2 time of the kiosk visit = max 40 minutes). The rest of the time was dedicated to Q&A, discussions related to presented topics and sharing of experience.
Topics of the kiosks included (1) Human resources & risk management; (2) Corporate communications; (3) Research services; (4) Finances and procurement; (5) IP rights; (6) Project management, fundraising and M&E; (7) Library and Capacity building and (8) Information & communication technologies.
The groups were carefully prepared as a mixture of new comers and senior scientists, both from headquarters and outreach offices, from different programs, to enhance interactions, knowing each another, sharing issues and problems or on the other side recognizing problems of the others. The whole program run for almost 1.5 day. Leaders of the Kiosks at the end presented key messages/issues in the short plenary session (review of review).
At this moment I don’t have yet evaluation survey from participants, but overall the feedback was very positive. People liked the interactions, dynamics of the two days, recognizing common problems, having opportunity to raise the issues and get direct feedback. I have one more facilitation method in my toolkit 😉