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From Pipe Cleaners to Big Ideas

I was once told by a supervisor that I bring order to chaos. I love problem solving, from the chaos of point A to the order of point B. For example, at Healthy Planet, we customize each school’s garden program based on their strengths and gaps. Together, our team brainstorms everything about that school on a massive whiteboard, putting together patterns, until we come up with the perfect garden program for that school. So when I heard about ISKME’s Big Ideas Fest, I was quite intrigued, and hoping for a full four days of that action. However, I was weary, as it was a conference, and many of us know how unexciting those can be.

Well the conference couldn’t have started any better, with a bike ride in the morning under the beautiful (though cold) blue skies above the pacific ocean. After registration, all of the conference attendees were ushered into a room by the soon-to-be-very-familiar hand bell, rung by an ISKME team member throughout the weekend. Our first task; all of us were to take one of the many books scattered around the room, and go back to our elementary school roots, by literally making a book cover — yikes, crafting is my wife’s forte, not mine. However, the goal of the activity was to symbolically redesign education. Yippee! Already problem solving!

This was really the beginning of what’s known as the Big Ideas Fest’s famous Action Collabs — where every conference participant is divided into 10 or so groups based on categories that we each choose during the registration process. The conference, or Fest, as it’s more appropriately called, really revolves of these Action Collabs. Are there lots of speakers like at most conferences? Yes, absolutely, but each speaker cohort, or Rapid Fire group, as they’re termed, is all about educating and inspiring the participants about that specific step in the Action Collab process; Identify Opportunity, Design, Prototype, and Scale and Spread. What’s even more impressive, and I believe it says a lot about the Fest in general, is that most of the speakers not only stayed for the whole four days, but were part of each Action Collab group – contributing just as much as the rest of the team.

I won’t give you all of the juicy bits from the Action Collabs because there’s something to be said about a little suspense if you’ve never been. But from a problem solving junkie, it was an inspirational and amazing opportunity to hone those skills with experts in the field. Let’s just say that ISKME’s budget for sticky notes, sharpies, pipe cleaners, and bottle caps must be through the roof…

Big Ideas Fest Action Collabs