Facilitating Hack Weeks

Careful group facilitation is at the core of any hack week. Unlike a traditional conference or workshop, where organizers can recruit speakers and session chairs, hack weeks aim to break open the traditional separation between audience and speakers. Organizers have to ask themselves important questions: how do we get participants to get to know each other and start talking? How do we make sure that group work is equitable, such that everyone can contribute, and the group isn't dominated by a single person? How do we even get participants to stand up and propose projects? How do we unleash the wisdom of the group while honoring everyone's autonomous efforts?

In this section we outline general categories of facilitation to handle the individual and group interactions that commonly occur in these events. Then we provide templates from each of our hackweeks that provide fine-grained information on specific facilitation approaches we have used, their purpose, timing and materials used, and our lessons learned. Some of our facilitation resources are drawn from a collection of tools called Liberating Structures.

Some of the core capabilities of a good facilitator include:

The Importance of Invitations

Many of our facilitation approaches aim to draw participants into specific practices, or to conduct some activities within a framework or microstructure. Although the purpose of these structures is to dismantle many of the unhealthy bahaviors that can occur in professional settings, some particants may not view them in this way, and may not be ready to participate. Therefore we always preface our activites with a reminder that everything is invitational, and that if someone is not interested in joining in, this is fine.