Alan Webb- member of the DC Open Master’s group- recently took a trip to the Netherlands and spent about two weeks with the new group that has emerged there. Alan reported back on his experience to an Open Master’s Dinner in DC (linked straight to the second part of a longer presentation):
At the end point of the first trimester of the Open Master’s pilot, Alison Jean Cole conducted one-on-one recorded interviews with us to take a snapshot of our class at the beginning of this journey, and to gather some information about our needs and wishes. Along with other insights which we’ll be sharing here, one theme was abundantly clear:
Members of this class want more structure to help us take more initiative and deepen our learning.
So, over the month of December, Lauren Higgins, Alison Jean Cole, Axle Brown, Greg Bloom, and I have been putting our heads together to introduce some new developments to help give this community added support, process and structure.
Starting January, 2013, we’re introducing:
- Studio Groups, which are groups of 3-12 people that will act as our home base of support and accountability in the program. -> Read More about how this fits into the overall structure of community.
- A Member Checklist to guide us through the path of becoming full, peer-endorsed members of the Open Master’s, and this class. Our goal is for each of us to complete the member checklists to the satisfaction of our studio groups by April 31st and, when we do, earn our student cards.
- A detailed schedule for the next four months, to help us focus on main priorities each month on our own, one-on-one with partners, in our studio groups, and together as a community. This is to serve as a starting point to help us through this process together, but not as a hard-and-fast rule.
We hope this next step in our experiment will help gives members the structure we are craving, while still allowing for- expecting, actually- a high degree of autonomy and self-directedness for each member and their respective groups.
A group of DC Open Master’s students dined together last week with the intention of practicing methods of sharing our educational progress. The red lentil stew was superb.
The presenters of the evening were Axle Brown and Alex Simon. Axle is following methods prescribed by the Transformative Action Institute and IDEO to explore what matters to him most and to come to understand how he can make a civic impact with his career. He shared a video blog with the group, which he recently made during a personal retreat. This was Axle’s first time working with video as a presentation medium.
Alex Simon has focused his Open Master’s plan on chairs, including the history of seating and how people interact with the seating around them. Alex is planning to record regular podcasts about his research, which can be found at chairsplease.com. Alex is also working with a presentation medium for the first time – podcasts – so he and Axle were able to share that stress with the group.
Axle and Alex’s stories were excellent fodder for group discussion. Presenting our ideas and progress will not necessarily be easy. Like Alex and Axle, we all may have to work with new technologies or in new roles which are unfamiliar to us. Coming together over a meal and conversation, we realized that the power of our group can help each of us overcome these difficulties. Often a fellow Open Master’s student can offer practical assistance, and if not, the group support and camaraderie is enough to motivate anyone. As one participant said, “Often the greatest gift you can give someone is to listen.”
We discussed many ways to share your educational progress with your friends, the Open Master’s community, or the wider public, including: Amazon/Good Reads book reviews, podcasts, videos, blogging, recorded interviews, pinterest boards, and teaching classes. Surely there are many others we can add!
Presenting your growing knowledge with others can be a scary step for students. However, it is important if we want to prove how the Open Master’s program works. To relieve the stress of sharing, Axle had some simple advice: “Just relax your shoulders a bit.”
On the evening of October 16th, we held the first Dining Hall dinner for the Open Master’s Class of 2013. Eighteen people came together for a meal to celebrate the beginnings of our program and to continue discovering how different forms of group collaboration could further our learning goals. A rockin’ good time was had by all.
College life provides so many unintentional learning experiences, few as powerful as the dining hall. We all have to eat, yes. It’s not always enlightening. But bring together the right people, the right amount of trust, the right amount of mac ‘n cheese, and good things happen. During our first Dining Hall, Laura White introduced the group to Echoing Green’s Work on Purpose initiative. We discussed how the concepts of ‘purpose’ and ‘obligation’ fit – or didn’t – into our Open Master’s plans. Things got deep, like round-of-applause deep.
DC’s Dining Hall was the first of what will hopefully be many chances to break bread together. If you live outside of DC, why not try a virtual Dining Hall? Google Hangout was invented for a reason.
Last weekend seven of us held the first Open Master’s studio- Axle Brown, Liz Falk, Alana Ramo, Alex Simon, Mike Durante, Laura White, and Alan Webb.
The Studio was a four-hour event that helped us make some new friends in the program, understand this process in more detail, and dedicate some time for focused sharing and listening to each other present our plans, one at a time.
At the end of the day, we all dedicated to find at least one partner to buddy up with in the program and to share our plans in more detail to them this month.
We also liked the idea of using group dinners as milestones, so several of us committed to share our first drafts of our plans- and to take on at least one first personal “mission” within that plan- by the first or second community dinner. For example, Laura is working on creating a reading list she wants to commit to finishing and Alana is writing a “hit list” of possible mentors or interesting people in the arts and creative community to reach out to.
There were also some clever ideas discussed for the Open Master’s community, too, including:
- Organizing an Open Master’s book club to keep each other on track on our reading lists.
- Organizing an Open Master’s field day for teaching a variety of DIY skills to each other.
- Hosting a Mothup-style storytelling event at a dinner or call
- Experiencing some of the Work on Purpose activities together at one of our upcoming dinners to help us with exploring ourselves and our topics more deeply- which Laura, who works at Ashoka and Echoing Green, offered to help organize for us.
One of the first events that will bring part of the Open Master’s community together this month will be the Open Master’s Studios, which are being held Sunday, September 30th (1-4pm) and October 14th (1-5pm) in Washington, DC. We’re also busy organizing a series of other in-person events, calls, and online events over the next month.
Take a look at what we’ve got planned for the Studios. We’d love to hear what you think about this important first touch-point for our community.
Q: whether you are participating or not, if you could change one thing about the agenda, what would you suggest?
We are very excited about the 30 folks who have signed up for the Open Master’s Class of ’13. There are 22 of us in Washington, DC and 8 more spread out in other locations- from Oregon to Berlin.
Each of our courses of study will be individually designed, so we are also busy pulling those together. We’ll be ready to start sharing some of those soon.
We’re excited by the diversity of themes on the table. We have a nice mix of some fairly traditional topics- like film production and early childhood education- thrown in alongside some pretty nontraditional combinations, like interactive media, data science, and transnational organized crime.
It has also been great to see that, even amid our diversity, there are also a few common themes emerging, too. For example, one group has started to form around topics related to innovation- e.g. what makes a community innovative, what makes people cooperate, what makes an incubator work well, etc.
We are organizing our first few events together as a community this month. As we get to know each other a little better, we look forward to sharing more information about each of us as individuals!
So far there are 13 folks in Washington DC- and two more in other locations- signed up to join the class of 2013 of the Open Master’s! This is a great size and is exactly where we would love to be tracking at this point (big enough to have some great diversity of interests, but small enough to get to know each other well).
If you’re still considering joining, you still have until the end of this week to sign up (through Saturday September 15th).
Keep in mind that you do not have to have everything you want to study completely figured out to join. That is what the Open Master’s Studios on Sunday, September 30th and Sunday, October 14th will be all about.
More information on the studios: If you have already signed up or are just curious about what these days will hold, head over to the google doc where we’re drafting the plans for these studios and feel free to comment directly on the doc.
In addition to that, some of us have already started informally conducting some one-on-one peer reviews of our plans with each other, a few members of the community are starting to propose dates for our first few community meals, and we will be doing a lot more of each of these things in the coming month to help us get to know each other.
For those of you in other locations, we’ll be making an announcement soon and following up with some of you directly about organizing virtual participation or local groups of participants in other locations. Stay tuned!
As always, pleas feel free to comment here or email us with any questions!
The Open Master’s Program is about to kick-off! If you are interested in joining this year’s class, be sure to sign up by Saturday, September 15th.
The first round of the Open Master’s program will commence with a pair of ‘Open Master’s Studio’ events on Sunday Sept 30th and Oct 14th. Attendance of at least one of these two Open Master’s Studios is required for participants of this year’s program.
Please note that you do not need to have your study plan all worked out before signing up. This will be an exploratory process, and we are organizing ample opportunities for us to explore potential courses of study together — including a Knowledge Commons DC workshop about how to design your own curriculum, this Sunday (optional, open to the public).
Based on your feedback from the Open House in May, we’ve drafted an Open Master’s Handbook that outlines the process, program, and expectations for this openly peer-reviewed degree. This is a living document that will continue to evolve with the benefit of your feedback.
This week, we’ve published the first shared plans of some Open Master’s participants. Check out these initial iterations of the plans under development by Mike Durante and Alan Webb – and let them know what you think!
Looking forward to getting this year’s program started!
Over the last month I have been working on an Open Master’s plan that will help me organize my study and work over the next two years or more to deepen by knowledge, skills and experience in four categories:
- The Art of Making Things Happen - including the skills of project design, business model design, design thinking, and systems thinking
- The Art of Communicating Big Ideas - or, more specifically, the art of writing, speaking, and sketching to help understand and communicate complex ideas or systems clearly.
- The Art of Hosting - or, the art of facilitating group process for teams and communities that are working together.
- The Art of Being - or, the art of keeping the two drops of oil in the spoon in the process.
This is all part of my process of becoming as skillful a social innovator and catalyst of social innovators as possible- the work I would love to have consume all of my days.
Putting this plan together has been one of the coolest learning experiences I have had. Last week I shared it with half a dozen people for some early feedback before it went public. I was totally blown away by the feedback and help I have already gotten. What’s more, one friend of mine- Allison Basile, who has known me for a few years- even said she felt like she knew me better after reading it.
I can’t wait to see what responses I get now that I am putting it out to the world.
If you want to help, I am looking for some! For example, I’m still working on:
- Finding an opportunity this year to work with an incubator, accelerator, residency, fellowship or other similar program that is focused on social innovation and entrepreneurship- like The Future Project, New Leaf Initiative, co*lab Halifax- or a social innovation center at a university. I believe this is the best way to actually put all four areas of my plan into practice.
- Finding a suitable alternative to Adobe Creative Suite or helping me get it affordably. Are you looking for photoshop too?
Thanks for all of your help getting off the ground. It has been some work, but well worth it!