It’s all about people

Should I have been surprised?  Maybe, but I wasn’t.

On a very hot Saturday a couple of weeks ago I was facilitating my first hackathon, in the wonderfully sumptuous offices of Microsoft in Cambridge.

nic hacking

The hackathon was looking at ways to share DNA data- technical stuff you’d think. Early discussions confirmed a lot of the assumptions that DNA Digest had been making – the resistance to share data is heavily ingrained in the culture of academia, and viable solutions will need to be culture-hacking more than technology-hacking.  Fairly early on this comment came from the back of the room- “I think by now we all agree that this is not a technical problem” – Allister Frost,CodeCambridge.  

The aim of the day was to get a group of technically gifted people together with experts in the field of DNA research in order to reach a technical solution.  Only it’s not simply a technical problem so it’s not wholly a technical solution.

What’s the lesson for facilitation in this?  It’s all about people and getting the most out of them in a group situation.

Our morning was structured and information based, the afternoon was self directed.  To get delegates thinking we did 4 empathy maps.  These are a way for working with a range of stakeholders and understanding their respective positions.  In this case we looked at four key stakeholders:

  1. academia
  2. friends and relatives
  3. government
  4. research institutions

empathy map

The free flowing style of the afternoon, encouraged action, ideas, conversations and debate.  For more detailed feedback from the day then take a look at here for a summary then here for  photos.

Subsequent to the meeting, DNA Digest have been awarded funding for Digital Social Enterprises, to learn more about it check out their website.

More please- I loved it.

Nic