My Quarter in Review: Spring 2017

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Startup Weekend Education NYC 2017 Participants, Organizers, and Facilitator (that’s me!). Photo Credit: Brett F. Whysel, Decision Fish LLC

For the first time in five years, I didn’t organize Startup Weekend Education NYC. Instead, I was its facilitator! This was significant for several reasons.

  • I passed the baton. Eugene Leventhal and his organizing team did all the heavy lifting. I was there to share our previous Startup Weekend Education NYC resources, but they recruited the coaches, drafted the communications, marketed the event, and ordered the food. Through this process, I learned a lot about the experience of changing leadership in a volunteer organization, for which I’m very thankful! My two greatest learnings are (1) it doesn’t matter how well documented things are — ultimately knowledge management lies in people’s heads and (2) leadership development is key — leaders passing the baton need to pay attention, not just to handing off resources, but to coaching and mentoring their successors. Eugene and team, I hope I was able to support you in the latter!
  • I experienced the impact of commitment. Because I organized Startup Weekend Education year after year, I was able to guide improvement on the event each year. While there’s always room for more improvement, I can confidently say that I’m leaving Startup Weekend Education NYC stronger than when I inherited it, and for that, I’m very proud. At the same time, I’m glad I left organizing when I did. I think I would have burned out and ignored key priorities if I had tried to organize again. I hope #NYCEDU instills the same sense of commitment in lead organizers of various initiatives — the commitment to lead well, but also the commitment to leave well.
  • I was reminded of the importance of community. Early indications show that our Startup Weekend Education participants LOVED the experience, and largely because they felt supported, included, and surrounded by like-hearted peers. I have high hopes that those relationships continue. I was also personally supported by many, including but not limited to the following:
    • Roger Osorio, Startup Weekend NYC’s lead organizer, who gave me a ton of guidance based on his extensive experience as a facilitator and
    • Past Startup Weekend Education NYC organizers and facilitators, whose individual contributions led to the amazing event that exists now, from tips to run scholarships to a killer budget spreadsheet to experimenting with workshops. Thank you!

All in all, it was a wonderful experience, and I hope to see Startup Weekend Education NYC continue strong for years to come. BUT, if you see me trying to organize it again any time soon, please stop me! It’s time for me to let go.

Other significant elements of this past quarter include:

  • I now fully embrace being the Founding Director of #NYCEDU. In my My Quarter in Review: Winter 2017, I mentioned just how hard it was to take on founding something again, but the good news is that I have gotten over the fear and the remembered pain, which is wonderful. I haven’t gotten over ignorance, but who really does?
  • The #NYCEDU core team. We now have Jamie Lonie leading Communications, Sean Perkins – Website, Mike Boyle + George Lu – Automation, Alli Lee – Welcoming Committee, Susie Kavanaugh – Ambassadors, Eleanor Schmitt – brunchcrew, and Kendelle Argrette – Incorporation!
  • I’ve come to the realization that community leaders, organizers, and builders are different, and that I need to focus deeply on relationships with community leaders. Community leaders are trusted members of place-based communities, like the mom who invites all the other moms to her place for potluck or the local coffee shop owner who greets everyone by name. Community organizers are those who build the power of community leaders, but who aren’t necessarily people who live in the community, and community builders create new communities that are often resource-based as opposed to place-based. I realize that this might need more explanation, so, I promise that there will be more to come.

So what about this upcoming quarter?

The key for me is to go back to “Less but better”. I’ve felt overwhelmed this past month, and I think it’s because I’m not crystal clear on my priorities. So, I’m writing them out here in order to keep myself accountable.

What I’m Saying “Yes” to:

  • I say “Yes” to communicating #NYCEDU’s vision, mission and values, moving into communicating #NYCEDU’s theory of change. Jamie’s keeping us on track with this as an overall project, while I’m continuing to add thoughts based on what I’m learning from conversations with community members and mentors.
  • I say “Yes” to doing what’s necessary to get #NYCEDU funded, from supporting Kendelle’s work of fiscal sponsorship to applying for grants and fellowships.
  • I say “Yes” to figuring out #NYCEDU governance structures and supporting volunteer leads. We’ll live or die by our teams of volunteers.

And, What I’m Saying “No” to:

  • I say “No” to working aggressively on #NYCEDU offerings. I don’t know where the balance is here, because I do think that we need to continue creating value and momentum for the community. Perhaps the necessary condition for this to happen may be needing to recruit the right leads to take on this work.
  • I say “No” to taking meetings that don’t meet the priorities in what I said I say “Yes” to. I don’t know how I’m going to do this yet, because I think it’s critically important for me to stay accessible and allow for serendipity, but how do I do this while maintaining focus and protecting my time and energy? If you have tips, I welcome them.

Finally, some random fun things!

  • I’m learning Spanish! I’m starting with The Mimic Method, which focuses on accurate pronunciation and speech cadences before ever diving into vocabulary. So far I’m having a ton of fun, and am taking it slowly but surely!
  • I’m reading The Art of Community: Building the New Age of Participation. It’s proving to be a very useful how-to manual on building open source communities that create things while collaborating online. I’m excited to start applying a lot of it, particularly its guidance around governance.
  • I moved to Jackson Heights and it’s fantastic! This is the fourth place I’ve lived in since I moved to New York City five years ago, and I think it’s the first time I felt like I really really really want to stay in the neighborhood long term. It’s diverse, with food that’s divine, and in Queens where I was born.

In short, life is good, if busy, and this next quarter will be all about focus, execution, and joy. Cheers!