Custom Event Design and Facilitation Services

Over the past 6 years, Aspiration has facilitated more than ninety public and private events, for a range of audiences in over thirty countries across the globe.

While a number of these gatherings have been open and public events, on topics ranging from nonprofit software to open translation to managing technology projects, we have also enjoyed the opportunity to run a number of private events for specific organizations or networks of practice. These types of events have included:

  • Visioning and strategy sessions, where team members work to align goals, shape vision, and make concrete plans for moving forward with implementation;
  • Project sprints, where project stakeholders convene to 'sprint' toward event outcomes. Sprints can focus on software coding tasks, document and book creation, creative brainstorms, as well as both blue-sky and focused design tasks;
  • Organizational development and coaching sessions, where staff work collaboratively to discuss pending issues, challenges and goals, and agree on processes and milestones to achieve organizational change and capacity gain;
  • Focus groups, where target users or stakeholders are engaged to provide feedback on software, organizations, strategies, concepts and other focus-worthy fodder;
  • Staff retreats and team off-sites, where organizational stakeholders work together to shape vision, plan projects, identify milestones and map out action items with which to move forward;
  • Team interventions, in situations where a project or group is experiencing substantial frustration or dysfunction, and where stakeholders work to frankly name and address issues, participate in honest and open dialog, and move past blockages;
  • Interactive facilitation trainings, where we show others how to implement our facilitation techniques through a learn-by-doing process. These engagements are often done in advance of larger events to help establish facilitation teams.

In addition, Aspiration is always delighted to discuss other event and meeting formats and paradigms. We welcome collaborative opportunities to co-create innovative and impactful live experiences.

Methodology

When organizing any event, Aspiration works closely with the organizers and participants to maximize event outcomes, following a robust and time-tested methodology. Our approach to creating participatory events is documented in a white paper of the same name, and we publish our convening methodology on our Facilitation Wiki, where we welcome feedback and contributions.

When working on private convenings, we apply a specialized version of our methodology to achieve the outcomes desired by the organizers. While the exact process varies from event to event, milestones in the process usually include:

  • Facilitating discussions between members of the organizing team to refine and prioritize event goals and desired outcomes, in order to arrive at a common understanding of how the event will be realized. The primary product from this phase is an event goals statement, along with talking points describing the vision and purpose of the convening.
  • Consulting with prospective participants on goals, vision, and topics of interest, for use in designing the agenda and maximizing participant investment and productivity at the live event. Where appropriate, transcripts of participant interviews are generated and compiled to be shared with event organizers and potentially with participants.
  • Drafting a proposed agenda based on both goals and stakeholder input, actively soliciting feedback, and evolving the agenda accordingly.
  • Identifying any "blocking" or controversial issues that have the potential to shift focus from primary goals at the event, and working with organizers and affected stakeholders to mitigate concerns and disagreements in advance of the event.
  • Advising on internal and external communications. Internal communications focus on keeping participants and stakeholders informed about event planning and developments, and external communications, when appropriate, convey primary goals, benefits and anticipated impact in concert with larger communications strategies.
  • When needed, advising on appropriate venue requirements, site selection, and logistics for the event, and/or providing services to manage the same.
  • Offering guidance on processes and tool selection for capturing proceedings, ideas, and outcomes at the live event.
  • Facilitating the event using our unique, participant-driven methodology.
  • Debriefing with organizers and interested participants to assess how the event tracked to goals, as well as to enumerate learnings, outcomes, and possible next steps.
  • Advising on post-event follow-up strategies and collaborative momentum maintainers.

Overall, our methodology is designed to engender highly interactive and productive in-person gatherings where participants feel substantial ownership of the proceedings and are invested in getting to meaningful outcomes.

Past Event Highlights

Aspiration has been designing and facilitating private events for over five years. Organizations that have retained Aspiration for facilitation engagements include:

  • Mozilla Foundation – Multi-stakeholder code-sharing round table; internal strategy sessions
  • Salesforce.com Foundation – 2008 and 2006 annual staff planning retreats
  • Google – Focus group for Leadership 18 CIO's to discuss technical and operational viability of hosted Google Apps
  • The Open Planning Project – Team visioning, planning, and technology process design
  • Community IT Innovators – Engineering process summit and staff visioning offsite
  • Charles Stuart Mott Foundation – Grantee focus groups to discuss Mott's online grantee tools
  • Sun.com Foundation – Digital Divide Summit for corporate leaders on global social responsibility plan
  • Surdna Foundation – "Making Waves" Summit on the future of public radio
  • Sunlight Foundation – Kickoff visioning event for "Open Data/Open Government" program
  • Shuttleworth Foundation – Kickoff visioning event for Kusasa African education project
  • Joomla! – Core team summit and governance meeting for open source content management platform
  • EarthJustice – Team building and strategy retreat for enterprise IT group
  • Telecentre.org – Kick-off staff visioning and planning retreat for the organization
  • EngenderHealth – Kickoff coalition meeting for NPOKI open knowledge standards project
  • EngageMedia – Plone Video Sprint to enhance video support in Plone content management system
  • Ashoka Foundation – Ashoka Fellows social media knowledge share and network effects brainstorm
  • Freedom House – Video content design sprint
  • Alexandria Institute – User Needs Discovery Summit for web-based archeology research platform
  • Association for Progressive Communications – ActionApps Developer Summit
  • Chicago Technology Cooperative – Team building and organizational strategy summit
  • Oracle – MC for "No Slide Zone" at Oracle Open World 2007

We are delighted to provide interested parties with references and testimonials from the above list of clients, as well as a schedule of service rates.