Designing learning experiences brings on a whirlwind of emotions.

Self-doubt runs wild: Who am I to be facilitating anything? Will people be engaged at all? Will anyone even show up?

Self-confidence fights back: Most workshops out there are stale. We have unique ideas and activities to offer. We’ve got this.

We felt it all leading up to Edventurists’ first three-day program, the Positive Change Accelerator.

We designed the pilot to shed light on the empowering elements of self-directed learning, design thinking, and lifestyle design (as made popular by a course at Stanford’s d.school).

But pilots never go as planned.

Thanks to the thirteen brave souls that joined us for the program and their honest feedback, we’ve made some big changes to our approach.

Here are our 5 key insights from designing the Positive Change Accelerator that will shape our upcoming program, “Wayfinding Labs,”and future learning experiences:

Design Thinking activity at the Positive Change Accelerator. Photo by Kate Dumke

  1. Break down the walls to break open learning. Standard workshop environments (i.e. white board, seats behind tables, projectors with presentations) set the tone for a standard learning experience. The second we pushed away the chairs and began to move, ideas began to flow. Intriguing conversations kicked off the second we left the room to go for group walks. Activities were infinitely more engaging when they followed a tea break or a mini yoga session. We’ll be incorporating creative movement and mindfulness in the great outdoors as a core element of Wayfinding Labs and our future experiences.
  2. Deceleration > acceleration for meaningful change. With the intention to create as much value as possible, we tried to cram tons of activities and methodologies into two days of workshops. At a certain point, it felt like the brains in the room were beyond fried and were approaching their burning point. I’ve heard “less is more” a thousand times, but experiencing it is believing it. We’ll be honing in on key activities and discarding others, leaving much more space and time for unexpected dialogues to pop up (along with the inevitable insights that accompany them). To start, we’ve changed the name from “Positive Change Accelerator” to “Wayfinding Labs,” a title that embodies the adaptability of human-centric learning experiences.
  3. Let the community do its work. Learning spaces that are egalitarian unleash a peer-to-peer learning affect with limitless potential. As designers of the Positive Change Accelerator, we had a tendency to over plan and constantly inject comments and ideas to keep things moving. Yet, when we took a step back and let participants take the lead on asking big questions, the experience swung upward. Participants became more comfortable sharing their vulnerabilities, meaningful dialogue picked up, and the ambiance in the room became more self-reflective. This community-driven shift enabled more participants to feel empowered in their own journeys.  
  4. Design Thinking is a mindset shift, not a quick solution. We went into our Design Thinking workshop with grand ambitions to help each attendee design and prototype their own dream project. While it’s exciting to say that someone can “launch their project” in a day, it misses the foundational elements of design thinking: starting with a problem, embracing failure, and iterating on ideas with real people to prototype solutions that stick. Many attendees had brilliant solutions seeded in their minds when we got started, and it was difficult to shift from those ideas to thinking with a problem-first approach. This flaw in our curriculum made activities feel drawn out and made projects more individualistic. In Wayfinding Labs, we will break down the Design Thinking methodology into individual components. We will only cover components that are crucial for problem-solving, meaningful collaboration, and embracing failures as learning opportunities. Participants will then be equipped with a fail-forward mindset and the Design Thinking tools to build out their own projects after the workshop.
  5. Following through starts the second you leave. Many participants in the Positive Change Accelerator expressed that they felt a newfound sense of confidence and clarity on their future. They also expressed concern that they wouldn’t know where to put that energy after leaving program and jumping back into their day-to-day lives. Their concern was well-conceived. As facilitators, we struggled to keep the momentum from the program moving after we dispersed. How can we keep the community interacting? What will make people feel more accountable? What role can we play as a core team?  We’ll be diving deep on these questions in future programs. One thing is for sure: “following through” needs to be well thought out before participants walk in and should start the second they walk away from the experience. With our vision to create an accessible, community-driven higher education program, we will need to evolve our approach to support individuals from afar in their varied endeavors to self-direct their learning, do projects, and architect a future with purpose.

Design Thinking activity at the Positive Change Accelerator. Photo by Levina Li

These insights, like everything we do, are works in progress. For now, we’re excited to build them into Wayfinding Labs (March 1 – 4) and to continue to evolve our approach, hand-in-hand with the inspiring people who join us in our programs.

With curiosity, joy, and gratitude,

Daniel & the Edventurists Team

Participants of Day 3 of the Positive Change Accelerator. Photo by Kate Dumke