Town Hall Meetings: Recap #1
And just like that, the first set of Town Hall Meetings are over. I thought it would be best to share them both together as I think they complement each other well.
The Road to Rhode Island
Mike and I had the joy of driving down to Rhode Island over the weekend to give our first town hall meeting. This was pretty scary for me as it was our first official event in front of real live FIRSTers. And although I was worried, Mike wasn’t. He wore flip flops.
All in all I could not have asked for a better group. Town Hall meetings are for anyone in New England, so we had mentors from MA and RI who couldn’t make the dates later in the fall. We had lots of good conversation and it was great to finally see visual reactions to ideas we have been throwing around. What was the best part was that we got lots of good questions. Some of them we’re wrestling with ourselves already, and some of them are out of the blue.
There were very good specific questions that came out of this meeting. What is the process of getting the model approved? When will we decide when we are going districts? Who keeps the profits of the food sales at events if a team is hosting?
Our audio was very quiet (aside from my booming voice), so I’ll post the slides first and then see if I can make the audio into something worth listening to. We’re going to change the order for next week’s event in Maine due to the feedback we received, but the content will stay the same.
Heading Down East
Up next a week later was the Maine event, held in South Portland. Again, a gorgeous drive, and we had eight participants: two from MA and the rest from Maine. If you follow me on twitter you’ll know that this group really got me thinking, as having these events back to back really show the duality of New England. Maine teams normally only travel to one event. If they qualify for another event, you have to move mountains to get their students there. They are in the process of getting a regional going for 2013, and having to tell the story to the public one way and then change to districts in the future is something that they want to do carefully.
The participants in Maine were also very concerned about the role of the awards under the new model. Awards should be consistently judged across the region and given just as much recognition as performance. Judges should spend more time with the students to learn with them and there should be some “best of the best” judging going on at the Championship level.
The audio was again unsatisfactory but you can see the difference in the slides. One of the lessons we learned in Rhode Island was that teams cared more about how the districts work and how it affects them as opposed to the history behind how this all came about. By switching the order, we got most of the larger questions out of the way sooner.
So, I think over the past two weeks I think I learned a lot of things from these two groups:
- We should have online focus group sessions on specific things that matter to teams (ex: what should the food options be?)
- There is a distinct operational difference between teams who are in the Northern part of NE and the Southern part. I plan on speaking with the FiM teams from the Upper Peninsula to hear how they handle this difference, as I assume that it is similar.
- Both groups think high school and college events are more feasible than college-only events, in regards to scheduling.
- There should be tons more content up on this website!
- There should be pages on this site dedicated to reading up about the other districts.
- Cross-pollination of teams needs to happen, and most are ok with starting the criteria simple and getting more complex later if necessary.
- Teams love the idea of “host teams” for events, as opposed to having one team take on running an event themselves.
- Teams are mostly ok with the idea of providing volunteers as long as events are flexible.
- Sustainability grants would be amazing.
- A lot of these points deserve their own posts, for discussion sake.
That’s how we learn, though, through creation and iteration. As we start to see how we fit within these United Districts of FIRST, we’ll get better as we go. That’s why we’re starting these so early – to talk to teams and make sure this move is in a positive direction. I hope to see you at a future meeting, but in the meantime, feel free to drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.