“Drawing” on experience – a creative approach to problem solving in university administration

H-Form exercise

H-Form exercise

On Friday 15th November 2013 I co-presented my first participatory approaches workshop session at the AUA Yorkshire & North East conference in York with my colleague Janette.

Our journey to this conference began in April when Janette was approached by the AUA and invited to submit a proposal to deliver a session around Jisc online resources. As I’m studying on the AUA PG Cert I am always looking for opportunities to develop my skills so when Janette asked if I wanted to co-present the session, I was keen to get involved. We decided that in addition to highlighting our online resources this session was an opportunity to use participatory approaches. We put a lot of time and effort into planning the session, we even produced our own timelines to tell the story of the planning process.

Timeline

Timeline

Links to Janette and Gemma’s timelines

A week before the conference we had the chance to run through the session with our colleagues which was a valuable experience as they noted a number of issues in relation to the structure and flow of the session. We needed a thread that delegates could easily follow so we decided to create a scenario that delegates could relate to and build in participatory exercises giving them the opportunity to use the techniques. It was important that we listened to feedback from colleagues who themselves had delivered a participatory workshop and were talking from experience. Aware that the clock was ticking we spent a day reworking the session, the feedback from colleagues allowed us to identify a way forward and as a result we felt much happier about the session.

The day of the conference arrived we’d been informed by the AUA to expect 40 delegates in our session, initially we were a bit daunted by this but on the plus side having more delegates created a better chance for discussion. We arrived at the room to find that it hadn’t been set up as we requested, in a panic we began moving furniture. Once the session began, the delegates really engaged with the activities and there was a lot of energy in the room. There was a lot of discussion going on around the exercises so plenty of opportunities to highlight to delegates how we and others from the sector had used these techniques.

Feedback

Feedback

In addition to showcasing a number of practical techniques for delegates to take away, we provided them with a link to a Google Doc containing information on our online resources as well as links to examples of where these participatory approaches have been used in the sector.

Google Doc: http://bit.ly/Jisc-tools-shortcuts-for-AUA

Planning and delivering this session was challenging at times – I felt outside of my comfort zone – but it was a good experience and one that I would like to build on in the future!