Unexpected Growth from Unprofitable Unconference

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.


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.

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