Things I Need To Do Better

I believe passionately in the underlying principles and the overarching vision of Changemaker Bootcamp. I know that there’s a huge gap in the need for practice, and I believe that services like this can help fill that gap.

Moreover, my goal for this project and all of my work is impact. I believe strongly in doing work a certain way to maximize impact — the ways embodied by these workouts. I myself need to be modeling those practices.

I’ve been using Lean Startup as the overarching framework for creating Changemaker Bootcamp (rapid iterations focused on validated learning). My twist is that I’m working transparently. I’m sharing the lessons I’m learning — both good and bad — here and as close to real-time as possible. If you watch the exit interviews of past participants, they’re pretty candid about what could be better. I want people to see this, because I want others to learn from my experiences. My goal isn’t merely to build a thriving service. If it were, there would be much easier ways for me to do that. My goal is to improve the ecosystem as a whole.

This past week, I “officially” launched Changemaker Bootcamp. (Apply now! Deadline is August 13.) We’ve moved out of alpha and into perpetual public beta. That means I have an overall service that meets my baseline expectations in quality. But it doesn’t mean that it’s perfect. It’s far from that. There are many things that need to be improved, and I fully expect to be continuing to do that over the next several months.

I’ve had many wonderful friends go out of their way to spread the news and to recommend that people participate in bootcamp. I feel very blessed, and I’m going to work my butt off to surpass their belief in me.

I’ve also had a few wonderful friends share some hard, critical feedback. I love hard, critical feedback. It’s going to take me some time to implement their suggestions, so I thought I’d share what they said now, share my quick thoughts, and open things up to ideas from all of you! Most of the feedback has been around communication.

I hate the name “Changemaker Bootcamp.”

Fair enough. When I originally conceived of this, I called it “Collaboration Bootcamp.” I changed it to “changemaker,” because I wanted to make the goals around making positive change more explicit, and because I believe that collaboration skills are core to doing this. (Plus, the domain name was available!)

However, there are lots of downsides to this name. First, changemakers need more than collaboration skills (although I think this is a high-leverage skill that most people are not investing in). I can address this through partnership or pointers. For example, New Media Ventures has been experimenting with a business skills bootcamp for social entrepreneurs. The Story of Stuff Project is experimenting with a citizen muscles bootcamp. Seb Paquet has been independently developing a peer-support model for social entrepreneurs that embodies a lot of the principles underlying this bootcamp. We need all of these things, and I’m happy to point to the people who are doing them.

Second, for whatever reason, when people think “changemakers,” they think “nonprofit.” I think that is a limited, unfortunate framing, but if it’s too strong for me to overcome, then I may need to change it. I know lots of people who are working in organizations without explicit social missions who should be doing these kinds of workouts, and I want those people in my bootcamp. That diversity makes for a richer experience for my bootcampers, but it also contributes to the bettering of the world.

I’m pondering a name change to “Collective Leadership Bootcamp.” What do you think?

What’s your curriculum?

Ugh. I hate the word, “curriculum.” Changemaker Bootcamp isn’t teaching in any traditional sense. It’s learning-by-doing, with lots of feedback from peers and from me. Watch Amy Luckey’s exit interview to get a better sense of what the experience is like.

That said, I need to be much more clear about what Changemaker Bootcamp is about, but more importantly, why you should participate. I need to be clear about what you’ll get out of it. I’m working on this. It will take time.

That said, I’m holding myself to a much higher standard here than any other training I know of. I’ve published all of my workouts, with notes on what went well and what didn’t. I’m using this blog to talk about the meta-process, as I’m doing right now with this post. And I’m using the most liberal Creative Commons license out there for all of my materials, meaning that people will be able to build on what I’m learning and sharing. Who else is doing this? Seriously, I’d love to know, so I can point to them, applaud them, and learn from them.

It seems kind of expensive.

Good. It should.

I don’t pretend to know that much about pricing, and of course, pricing is intertwined with brand and marketing — two other things I know little about. It’s possible that my pricing is problematic, in which case I need to find ways of correcting that.

Here’s how I went about figuring out my pricing.

First, I started with my twin goals around sustainability and scalability. If this is not financially sustainable, then I can’t keep doing this work. However, if I can’t help the folks who need it, then I’m not achieving my impact goals.

I can address my target market by giving my workouts away and by finding other ways to support an ecosystem of people who can’t participate in my bootcamps. If it’s too expensive, organize your own workout group. I’ll help you. You can offer a competing bootcamp and price it below me. I’ll help you with that too. Seriously. I have tremendous confidence in my abilities, and I’m constantly getting better. If there’s a market for this kind of service, then I belong on the premium side of the market. Competition is validation.

Second, I look at what people are spending right now on personal and professional development. In my changemaker survey, I found that many people spend between $1-5K a year. I wanted to price the bootcamp so that people could potentially enroll in multiple bootcamps throughout the year.

Third, I looked at “competing” services. My bootcamp is on the high-end of that spectrum, but it’s not the highest, and I believe it provides much more value.

Furthermore, while I looked at trainings and leadership development programs, they’re not my primary competitive frame of reference. Organizational consulting is. So many organizations hire consultants (like me in a previous life), when they should actually be doing something like a bootcamp internally. You can read more of my thoughts on this here.

I feel good about the price, and I’m not going to change it. If I’m unable to build a sustainable service, it will be because of my inability to communicate value and reach my target audience, not because of the price.

I’d love to hear what others think about all of this. Feel free to leave a comment below!

Exit Interview: Anna Castro

Just like a regular fitness bootcamp, Changemaker Bootcamp is designed for people to repeat as many times as they feel valuable. Anna Castro was the very first person to sign up for Changemaker Bootcamp, and she is also the first to do it twice in a row. Here are her thoughts on bootcamp from her unique perspective:

You can watch what she thought of bootcamp the first time around.

Self-Workouts Are Happening!

One of my goals for Changemaker Bootcamp is to spark a movement that shifts people’s mindsets around the importance of practice… and that actually gets people to practice. My priority for now is to create an experience that helps the people who participate in my bootcamps. However, long-term, I’m not going to be satisfied by this alone. I want to see people working out on their own and bootcamps and other things supporting these workouts all over the place.

My way of enabling this is to document everything that I’ve been doing on this website — the workouts as well as what’s worked and what hasn’t. So I’ve been doing that, but I’ve been doing it quietly. I’ve been publishing my working documents and notes without a lot of attention to audience, context, etc. In other words, I’ve been working transparently, but I haven’t spent much time making my work accessible.

So here’s the funny thing. When you make things available, people might start using them, even if you aren’t “ready.” This is a great thing. It keeps you on your toes, and it gives you real “customers” for your work.

My friends at Leadership Learning Community (also known as LLC, on which I’m on the board) have been doing exactly that. Lauren Rodriguez, one of my last bootcampers, works at LLC, and the leaders of the organization — Deborah Meehan and Natalia Castaneda — decided to do the workouts in parallel with her. They blogged about doing the first workout, in which they brainstormed as many questions as possible about their project — rethinking their organizational design.

This was really great to see, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of this. One thing I’d point out about the results of the workout — and something I would note on a more externally-oriented workout guide — is that they didn’t generate that many questions. They generated a total of 11 between the two of them.

When I do this workout in my bootcamp, I have each participant brainstorm as many questions as possible in a five-minute timespan, even if they already know the answer. Then I have them cluster their questions and repeat the exercise. Then I have them do it again. If I had more time, I would have them repeat the exercise a total of five or six times. Doing it over and over again forces you to think comprehensively about questions. Clustering and reflecting on them afterwards helps you identify which of the questions are most important. Practicing this helps you zero in on critical questions faster.

I also look to see how many yes/no questions people come up with. The reason is that I’m trying to encourage people to ask generative questions — questions that encourage deep thought and discussion. A yes/no question does not do that. One thing you’ll notice about Deborah and Natalia’s questions is that there are no yes/no questions, an indication of their skill at asking questions.

Finally, I count the number of “how” questions versus “what” and “why” questions. Most of us tend to focus on “how” questions, and most of us easily lose sight of the “what” and “why.” This leads to two problems. First, we lose sight of our goals and strategy. Second, we operate on assumptions without making sure we have shared understanding about some of our more complex ideas. For example, if you’re going to be doing a project on leadership, you need to make sure that everyone on the same team has a shared understanding of what “leadership” is.

Deborah and Natalia have a decent balance of “what” and “how” questions, but they have zero “why” questions. This is very common, and it’s something that practice can help counteract.

Many thanks to Deborah and Natalia for being the first folks (that I know about) to try these workouts on their own! I hope others do the same, I hope others share what they’re learning the way Deborah and Natalia are doing, and I hope I can spend more job supporting all of you!

Amy Luckey’s Exit Interview

I ran into my friend, Amy Luckey, shortly before this last bootcamp. We were catching up over coffee, and she asked me what I was up to, so I told her all about bootcamp. She seemed really interested and asked if she could observe. I said, “Of course!”

Amy sat in on several sessions, and she shared her observations and insights during and afterward. It helped me quite a bit to have a pair of fresh eyes watching, and the many conversations we had served as my own practice. Even though she wasn’t a participant, I asked her to do an exit interview anyway, and she shared many wonderful nuggets.

You can see all of the exit interviews here.

Tools vs Practice

Today is the last workout of this iteration of my bootcamp. Over the past three workouts, we’ve navigated an interesting tension between learning-by-teaching and learning-by-doing.

I’m trying to design workouts that are not reliant on my “expertise” to facilitate. This is partially because of my practical desire to see these workouts scale beyond these bootcamps, but it’s also very much philosophical. I think that changemakers are conditioned to seek external knowledge rather than foster experiential knowledge. I think that consultants (my former profession) feed into this vicious cycle in a less than healthy way. I think this balance is all wrong.

For example, our third workout was about power dynamics. Rather than provide a framework for understanding group dynamics, I had participants simply tap into what they already understood. I was rewarded for my trust. They were insightful and thoughtful, and they complemented each other’s knowledge. Practicing what they already knew, but maybe didn’t realize, created deeper learning than would have resulted if I had tried to teach them a framework up-front.

Our fourth workout was about designing group engagements. This time, my approach failed. Participants felt lost, and they didn’t quite understand what I was asking them to do. (You can read Renee and Lauren’s thoughts on our new Water Cooler, which is where we’re now doing our homework exercises.) My design was too ambitious, and it didn’t give participants ample opportunities to tap into their own knowledge.

Last week’s workout was about difficult conversations, and I managed to recover from the previous week. Once again, I didn’t provide a framework, but it didn’t seem to matter. A big reason for that was that this group collectively already has quite a bit of experience with communication strategies. What they needed was practice.

My participants are finding the practice valuable, but they seem to be wanting more content to balance the practice. I’m listening, but I’m not ready to make drastic changes. I think there are some lightweight opportunities — providing a handbook, crowdsourcing tools, etc. — and I’m anxious to see how they feel after they’ve had a chance to run through these exercises two or three times. My theory is that they’re conditioned to want external tools more than they actually need them. However, I’m open to be wrong, and I’ll keep watching and listening.

Keeping up with my fitness

I am a returning bootcamper and I am so thrilled to be participating again. My project this time around is to support a group of colleagues in developing a shared vision for our work together and to identify tools that will help us strengthen our collective efforts. It’s been great to continue exercising changemaker muscles that I learned to flex during my first bootcamp and to notice and feel the differences between those initial workouts and the ones I’m going through now. The biggest takeaway I’ve experienced so far is that less is more. It’s important to slow my pace and temper my expectations in order to hone in on the specific muscles I want to build up.

I have a friend who is an avid physical fitness bootcamper and I see so many parallels between what motivates her to continue signing up for more sessions and why I felt so compelled to re-up for BootCamp #2. Practice and workouts are more effective when you are supported by a trusted coach. In both instances a participant is engaged in a whole body workout that pushes her to strengthen muscles that one didn’t realize needed the attention that bootcamps are so good at helping you zero in on. More importantly, the sense of community that is built among participants is priceless. I really value spaces that allow you to stretch and grow with others who are committed to themselves and their fellow bootcampers. I am so much more committed to practice and understand how critically important practice is for building up my endurance. Bootcamp is the care and feeding I need in order to have the staying power for the work I am in engaged in.

Power and Voice

At this week’s boot camp we were tasked with reflecting on the power dynamics that could be shifted in our projects.

I immediately thought about the interviews with stakeholders in my project, the LLC staff, I conducted  last week. When I asked staff about what contributes to successful staff meetings, a common theme emerged around staff voice and validity of voices present in the room; the power to be heard and in front of the group without hesitation.

How do we increase staff voice and engagement in order to have more productive and successful team meetings?  As a result of our bootcamp exercise, I adopted a practice to try and shift the power around speaking our minds at staff meetings. I proposed  to break into small groups to discuss ideas and then report back to the larger group, fairly simple.

When I returned to discuss with the team and facilitate last week’s meeting, the collective was able to take the idea about equity of voice and power much farther. We agreed that in each operational staff meeting (which takes place every other week now as a practice), each team member would present 5 minutes on what they are working on.

Presentations would include:

  • Status Updates

  • Coordination Needs- Any help needed

  • Questions/Issues to discuss with staff

We practiced the 5 minute presentations during the staff meeting that day and I think this was an effective process. Staff shared what they were working on and as a team member said, “It was like old friends were catching up”. Creating the space for each member to share gave voice to the individual and to the team.

We were however able to break into pairs in another meeting facilitated by a team member at LLC. This worked very well especially since we were discussing big themes in leadership development. I think the team was energized by working together and pushing each other’s ideas forward. We also rotated partners to discuss different questions. This presented the opportunity to work with two different partners, which I think lead to breakthroughs around leadership development  and resulted in some team building as well!

Lauren Rodriguez