The unconference was not profitable, yet it has proven itself rich with insights informing the design and early adoption of tech-enabled cohort-driven blended learning experiences.

  • 576 signups in a waitlist growing by 15 per day
  • 1 active cohort of 30 learners who met virtually twice, received prework this week, and officially start the program this Monday August 24
  • 2nd cohort applied, selected, and waiting to start

The cohort is a global group launching ventures that serve human needs aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

How we got here

For the six weeks post-unconference, I had one-on-one conversations with stakeholders to gain a deeper understanding of who we serve, what they need, and how we might support them.

A series of common pain-points within a specific segment surfaced. These pain-points informed the design of a new product we prototyped and shared as a landing page. We did a small ad spend targeted at a specific population within the intersection of two niche markets.

At first, we noticed a surge in traffic to the landing page. However, visitors were not converting. This told me our ad likely spoke to the customer problem, and the landing page outlining the solution needed adjustment.

After a few iterations to the landing page, we found the recipe that unlocked conversions, and the traffic began to convert. Within the first three days, we had 180 signups for an 8-week blended learning experience.

Emergent Leadership 8 Week Immersive

We built the application to ask the questions we’d need for an empathy map and persona canvas (needs, aspirations, obstacles, intentions, demographics, etc). The purpose behind this was to accelerate the research process and provide us with deeper customer data to inform design decisions.

As a vetting process, we hosted meet and greets organizing the learners from around the world to gather, connect, and make the experience real for them.

meet and greet

These gatherings were facilitated experiences for sharing and connection. Now that we made it this far, we felt comfortable to start architecting the new product alongside them.

Working backwards, and building upon our methodology The Four Movements, we designed the self-directed, blended learning experience for learners to bring themselves through a journey resulting in them launching a venture serving human needs.

CI four movements

Two weeks of ideation, prototyping, feedback, and testing led us to a more crystalized product that we walked the cohort through during the second round of meet and greets which took place this week.

ELI Timeline and Modules (1)

At the end, to measure each learner’s comprehension of how the program works, we asked each of them to articulate their interpretation on the live call, and reiterated in the comments section in the forum.

We started the process by bringing learners through the private Facebook Group, and now we’re moving into a private online platform (The Lab) the learners must log into in order to access the content. Take a peek inside what’s been happening with the cohort in the private Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/cooperativeimpact/

The 8-week experience is enabled through the technology platform we are building alongside learners, the Lab. It’s a central hub that contains everything a learner needs, all in one place. We’re carefully adding new elements as we learn from using it with the cohort and as we discover gaps in the experience.

CI ELI How it works

We shared prework with the cohort this week in the Lab to establish a shared language and provide a deeper understanding of how to think and act and interact with the program components and with peers.

Working within the timeline of the 8-weeks, we’ve curated a series of synchronous/asynchronous activities. We carved out an exciting 4-6 live workshops supplemented by asynchronous microlessons, and we open these workshops to the public so learners can build relationships with people outside the cohort which they must do as part of the curriculum.

Partnerships

We are in the exploration phase of scoping two partnerships and plan to finalize by August 31. One is with an artificial intelligence / machine learning startup who would be an entrepreneur-in-residence for Cooperative Impact to provide support to our learners interested in launching AI enabled ventures that serve human needs. The other partner would unlock access to serve the veteran community with our training programs.

Next steps

We’re opening our platform to facilitators to design their own blended learning experiences on Cooperative Impact. We feel it’s a natural fit: our ability to design tech-enabled learning experiences aligned with facilitators of magic who have gifts to share with the world. If you’d like to build an experience on our platform let me know.

We started this process in the summer by exploring the question, “How might we integrate superpowers like compassion, vulnerability, imagination, empathy, and innovation into society in a meaningful way.”

Through our initial community gatherings, insights from the unconference, and ongoing conversations with stakeholders we feel comfortable naming what we do as modern skills training in emotional intelligence, digital community, social innovation, and venture design.

Venture: Cooperative Impact June 15-18, 2020

Prepared by: Daniel D’Alonzo

We are committed to implementing the following improvements in the next iteration of our programming. Our next sprint plan will include action items under each of the commitments listed in section “III. Improvements”.

I. Benchmarks
II. Accomplishments
III. Improvements
IV. Next Iteration

I. Benchmarks

  • Net Revenue: $1,232
  • Facilitators: 22
  • Learners: 75
  • Partners: 1

II. Accomplishments: we acknowledge the facilitators, learners, partners, and our internal team for bringing this project to life in the midst of chaos and uncertainty.

  • Team Culture: from day one, we established an open environment of psychological safety, vulnerability, compassion, and creativity. We met as a team every week for office hours. The first 4-5 weeks were strictly focused on relationship building. During this time, we rarely talked about the business, tasks, or processes.
  • Purpose: we exist to shape the compassionate future of work. We aligned with facilitators and partners who share this intrinsic desire. We believe our shared purpose is one of the drivers of this event being a “success”.
  • Survival: we designed and produced an original program in the middle of two global crises – we collectively prevailed.
  • Vision: we began organizing the event in January. The vision we defined back then is aligned with the final product we produced. We said what we wanted to do. Then, together, we did it.
  • Participation: we had between 10-35 learners every session. We are grateful to give facilitators an opportunity to express themselves, do what they love, and share their gifts with interested people from around the world.
  • Experience: we heard from learners, facilitators, and partners they were impressed with the “flow” of the four days, and that we “pushed the boundaries of what’s possible on Zoom”. We are committed to continuing these single-tracked experiences.
  • Relationships: we see many new collaborations taking place as a result of this initiative. These collabs are between facilitators and facilitators, facilitators and learners, and facilitators and our partners.
  • Launchpad: we worked closely facilitators to support them in crafting their experience for the unconference. Many of these experiences were being prototyped for the first time. Based on the success of their session at the unconference, we see facilitators spinning off their Cooperative Impact workshops into independent workshops in collaboration with global organizations like NEXUS, Oneness Festival, and Centre for Social Innovation.
  • Marketing & Relations: we designed high-fidelity / highly polished assets, personalized email marketing campaigns, and ongoing one-on-one customer/partner relationship management to ensure each person’s need was being met/resolved immediately. Given the nature of our global crises, we are satisfied with the turnout we drew to the program while also striving to continuously improve as we move forward.
  • Execution: we feel the planning leading up to the event and the execution was overwhelming. We pivoted a few times to adapt with evolving needs resulting from covid and the civil unrest from George Floyd’s murder. We developed resilience in the process and learned how to quickly make course corrections based on the evolving needs of the people. We look forward to bringing the soft skills and increased emotional intelligence we acquired from this experience into the next iteration of our programming.
  • Microgrants: we issued microgrants of $250.00 to two learners to put towards realizing their vision and grow their social enterprise.
  • Compensation: we generated revenue for our partner and facilitators
  • Partnership: one of the ways we leveraged the partnership was to gain a deeper understanding of their community’s needs. In doing so, it gave us the pulse of where people were at any given moment. As the world navigated crisis to crisis we were in a unique position to design the unconference to serve rapidly evolving needs.
  • Leadership: in January, we pitched the vision for this program to collaborators (facilitators and partners). Our intention was to find out if you shared our vision. After 20 facilitators expressed desire for involvement, we created space for you to define what you wanted to bring to the experience and how you wanted to execute. We laid out the pieces on the table, clustered similar sessions, created categories, and designed a unique user experience as a sum of the unique parts.

III. Improvements: we are committed to implementing the following improvements in the next iteration of our programming. Our next sprint plan will include action items under each of the commitments listed below.

  • Team Culture: We started the planning process in January with a global team of about ten people (organizers and advisors). We invested the first month on values, purpose, and building relationships between the team members. We started discussing logistics of the unconference in March. It felt challenging to navigate the shift between emotional connection and “getting things done”. Covid hit. We pushed the date of the unconference a few times. Global uncertainty seemed to quickly surface our personal needs and cultural differences. Approximately half of the team felt called to remove themselves at different points between March and a week before the actual event.
    • We are committed to monitoring and addressing cultural, emotional, and organizational debt that undoubtedly accrues, especially in the midst of crisis when decision-making increases in pace so that we create an organization where our people thrive, and we, as an organization, are prepared for sudden changes in our workforce. This will take shape in the form of new internal models, programs, and processes that improve the way we work.
  • Standardization: We completed many tasks, steps, communications, and sent many emails to facilitators, partners, and facilitators throughout the course of the initiative (leading up to the unconference, during, and after).
    • We are committed to improving the experience for you by standardizing our processes, automating communications, and creating more time to focus on our relationship with you and the products/services we create together.
  • Social Emotional Support: It is rewarding and exhausting to hold space for people. Based on feedback from facilitators, one of the more special moments was when we organized the meet and greets for facilitators/speakers to be with one another.
    • We are committed to crafting more support for facilitators to process their own experiences and emotions while surrounded by their peers.
  • Data Collection: Our intention was to curate mid-level managers and leaders from corporations, governments, and higher education so that our facilitators would gain exposure to new client bases – this sounded great in theory, however, we attracted a variety of customers including college students, creators, founders, facilitators, retired workers, job seekers, and more.
    • We are committed to strengthening our data collection process so that we are able to (1) empower facilitators with information on “who is in the room” in order to personalize a more relevant experience for learners in the moment, and (2) inform strategic business decisions regarding customer segments, trends, and emerging markets.
  • Marketing: without knowledge of who our customers are, our marketing efforts were designed to cast a wide net to see which people we attracted.
    • We are committed to segmenting our existing facilitators, learners, and partners to personalize the next program’s curriculum, marketing strategy, and learning experience.
  • Experience: we received feedback that there wasn’t much time in between sessions to rest, recover, and reset.
    • We are committed to crafting our next experience with more breathing room before and after sessions.
  • Naming: we labelled this program an “unconference”, and after completing the project it seems appropriate that we reimagine how we frame our next program.
    • We are committed to testing options, getting feedback, and crafting a culturally relevant experience that serves the evolving needs of our facilitators and learners.
  • Financials: we fell short of the projections we had for the program. Our ambition was to “share the wealth”, create streams of revenue for facilitators, our partner, and Cooperative Impact.
    • We are committed to improving the financial model for our next program by using our current benchmarks as a learning tool so that we can define prices, compensations, revenue shares, expenses, etc that will produce stronger financial outcomes for all stakeholders.
  • Partnership: we anticipated a greater number of ticket sales and total revenue to be generated through the channel of our strategic partner. We take ownership of this breakdown and missed opportunity.
    • We are committed to providing additional support, clear communication, and ongoing check-ins with future strategic partners to ensure continuous alignment and uncover challenges in the moment so that we may collaboratively turn them into opportunities
  • Leadership: we are experimenting with new operating models driven by new ways of working. It was challenging to maintain a bottom-up, fully democratic and cooperative process when decision-making was needed in the face of global challenges. It was easier to build consensus (both internally with our team and with the facilitators) on decisions during the early months of the project (January – March). We found it difficult to build consensus on decisions as we neared the date of the program. In order to meet our deadlines, our leadership team felt inclined to make certain decisions without consensus.
    • We are committed to reflecting on our operating model, leadership style, and experimenting with new ways of working internally, with facilitators, and partners so that we may find the delicate balance of building continuous alignment while mapping our activities to the strategic objectives of the organization.

IV. Next Iteration: Based on what we learned from this experience, our next program will incorporate the improvements listed above, and will be designed for:

  • College students
  • Job seekers
  • Facilitators

If you have questions, comments, additional feedback please reach out anytime daniel [@] prethinc.com