We love the Concept Jam workshop for what happens in the room, as people get excited about the possibilities for social media in their organizations and their own work. And we love taking what happens in the room and teasing out the ideas and mashing them up with what we know ourselves until we can deliver a really varied, exciting set of options.

But in between the room and the options lie at least a couple of weeks worth of work. Those weeks can give our clients a chance to reflect on the insights that emerged, and their team members a chance to start trying out the tools and approaches they discovered in the workshop.

Or those weeks can provide just enough time for clients to write their own narratives of what the group decided, or for team members to put social media entirely out of their mind.

We experienced both of those challenges in some of our Concept Jams, particularly if there’s an extended period of time between workshop and options delivery. (Since we like to review the options in a client meeting, scheduling can sometimes extend the delivery cycle.) Then we hit on an easy solution: creating an immediate post-workshop report, deliverable within 3-5 days of the workshop.

The workshop report doesn’t add any reflections to the workshop results: it’s more or less a transcription of the workshop’s flipcharts, and even that makes for a long document. But it serves the crucial purpose of letting all the workshop’s participants review and reflect on the ideas and results, and in particular, to see the relative levels of interest and prioritization that emerge during the voting and risk/reward matrix session at the end of the day.

Sharing a workshop report is a lot to ask of a client, because unlike an options document it contains a wealth of ideas and information about an organization’s focus and endeavours. But one very generous client stepped up: William Azaroff of Vancity, for whom we launched Change Everything in 2006.

The brainstorming session that we held for Vancity — and which ultimately led to the Webby-nominated ChangeEverything.ca — became the prototype for the Concept Jam.  If you review the workshop report, you’ll see lots of the ideas that later gelled into Change Everything, including:

  • share local success stories
  • personal stories about Vancity’s community impact
  • demonstrating community involvement
  • member-to-member interaction
  • issue advocacy online
  • individual level connection to CSR
  • proposed actions
  • sharing personal (member) stories through blog posts/comments
  • community initiative blog with comments
  • photo contest

Vancity’s williness to share this report — as well as other deliverables we’ll be posting in the weeks ahead — is yet another dimension of their generosity and community spirit. Their approach to Change Everything has embraced the open source practice of sharing back their own code, as they did with two Drupal modules: the one that was created to designate favorite content, and the one that lets users nudge members to work on their changes. In allowing us to share the strategic and site planning work we did on Change Everything, they’re taking open source a step further by sharing ideas along with code.

Open SoSi: Concept Jam workshop report for Vancity credit union

In the years since the Vancity workshop, we’ve refined our template for workshop reports, but we haven’t asked our recent clients to share the results. Our strongest workshop reports are for clients who are still working with the results, so it feels premature to share this sensitive internal information.

What we can do is offer some guidance on how to structure and deliver a really rocking report:

  1. Overview (one-page outline of complete report)
  2. Chronological summary of workshop: what happened in each workshop session, highlighting key results.
  3. Flipchart transcription: workshop ideas organized by topic (goals, audiences, strengths; storytelling ideas, connecting ideas, knowledge sharing ideas)
  4. Appendices
    • Workshop participants with their stated goals for the day
    • Worksheet exercise results (based on combined input from group discussion)
    • Voting results: List of most popular items plus table showing all ideas with number of votes for each
    • Raw worksheets (as handed out to participants)

And throughout the workshop report, we include photos of the actual flipcharts, whiteboard and participant discussions. This really helps bring memories of the workshop to life.

If you compile it while your memories are fresh — and if your flipcharter has better handwriting than I do! — you can complete a good quality workshop report in 4-8 hours. Do it quickly, within a few days of a workshop, and you will help your client and participants get the most from the process of reflecting on and digesting the experience. That’s a good practice not just for the Concept Jam, but for any participatory workshop.