Lessons Learned from Inaugural Bootcamp

Changemaker Bootcamp Inaugural Participants!Last Wednesday, we finished the first Changemaker Bootcamp! I can’t believe how quickly four weeks went by, and I am very grateful to Marie Haller and Anna Castro for being wonderful, inaugural participants.

This first round was meant to be an experiment. My goal was to test the model and to explore possible answers to some of my strategic questions about this project. I intentionally kept it small and was selective with my first participants, and I learned a ton from the process.

In particular, I got to test the basic premise — that a focus on practice with feedback rather than “imparting knowledge” is valuable and much needed — and some specific exercises in a safe space. This was my own opportunity to practice, and it helped tremendously. It also helped me flesh out my overall conceptual framework, which will help me be more intentional in designing future workouts and assessments.

Some key takeaways:

  • Place to practice and process. In conceiving this, I originally focused on creating a place to practice. What I realized from this first session was that bootcamp is a great place for people to process — to reflect on their everyday work, to integrate their learnings, and to be more strategic in the moment. That’s different from doing a retrospective or going on a retreat after your project is over, because it allows you to learn and adapt more quickly.
  • Practice matters. That said, the original premise still stands. I was delighted to see the impact that even small amounts of practice had, and I was even more delighted to see the participants become very aware of this.
  • The homework worked really well. It forced participants to think about how they were going to put what they practiced in bootcamp into practice immediately in their own projects. It also kept the work very grounded in their real lives.

Some decisions and open questions moving forward:

  • I’m definitely going to do another round. For this next round, I’m going to target six-to-eight participants instead of two. I’ll be increasing the length of the sessions from 90 minutes to two hours in order to accommodate the larger camp size. Finally, I’m going to extend the cycle from four to six weeks.
  • It will stay once a week. I went back and forth on this the entire four weeks. On the one hand, an extra session per week would have made a big difference in terms of integrating some of this work, and it’s more in line with a real bootcamp in terms of building habits. On the other hand, homework would not be realistic for a twice-a-week session, and as I stated above, the homework turned out to be a really valuable part of the experience. I like the balance of practicing with each other, then practicing at work once a week.
  • Face-to-face only. I originally thought that I’d experiment with a remote version of this after I tried a few face-to-face versions. I realize I have no interest in this. A remote version is definitely doable (and I’d be happy to help design it if others are interested in pursuing this), I’m just not motivated to do it. There are plenty of changemakers in San Francisco who need something like this, so I’m going to focus my energy there. That said, I’d like to create something that scales, and so I’ll continue to put energy into sharing what I learn and fostering a larger community, so that this model has the potential to spread and replicate without me in the center.
  • Integrating technology into the process. Not doing a remote version doesn’t mean that I won’t be addressing technology-mediated collaboration. I think this blog worked well, and I’m going to introduce a chat-like function for participants to encourage more asynchronous interaction during the week. I’ll also likely create practice opportunities for technology-mediated collaboration: from teleconferences to far more sophisticated types of engagement. Again, all of the fundamental principles and exercises apply regardless of what tools people use to collaborate.
  • Should I charge for the next round? I am definitely looking to charge for this. I strongly believe this format — even in my early explorations with it — is far more useful than traditional trainings and content. I’m in the process of doing some research to figure out what the right pricing is. The question is whether I should figure this out first before doing another round, whether I should just do another round for free again, or whether I should do something in-between and charge something nominal. Thoughts? And again, to be clear, I fully plan to continue to do this work in a completely open source way, meaning all of the content will be available for people to steal and replicate.

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About Eugene Eric Kim

Eugene helps groups learn how to come alive and collaborate more skillfully together. He spent ten years consulting with companies across different sectors, from Fortune 500 companies to grassroots movements. He’s now focusing his efforts on helping others develop the same skills that he uses to help groups.