Monday, May 05, 2014

Reflections on Tabor e-Lab

“How was the e-Lab event last week?” The questioner looked at me intently, wondering how I would respond. I think I confused him with my reply, because at that moment “I heard it was good,” was about all I could say.

Why would I, the facilitator and planner of this event give an answer like this? Because, as I've learned by planning and running numerous big events over the years, when I’m in charge I’m unable to fully participate in the spirit and flow of the event. Maybe I'm unique and other event planners/organizers can be more present in the sessions, but I’ve found that my mind is too focused on what’s coming next to really engage as I would if I was just attending.

Since the event happened just over a week ago, I now have a different answer to the question. I'm very pleased with the day and I know it was a valuable contribution to the Wichita community. I’ve read over the evaluations, I’ve spoken to participants, and I participated in a panel discussion in the Tabor College chapel where I heard from students the impact of the event. The overall message I’m hearing is very positive, often capped with, “When are you doing it again?”

What was e-Lab? The quick answer is a day-long event with a wonderful mix of speakers, music, drama, and art. The event was filmed for later playback and was live tweeted throughout the day. However, for a complete picture, more info is needed.

When I was hired at Tabor College, I was tasked with creating an online MA degree in Entrepreneurial Ministry Leadership. I worked for a year writing the proposal, courses, outcomes and program and I’m excited to say the program will start with it’s first cohort in the fall (there is still room to apply if interested). As part of the course creation I was also asked to “make it free” a clear nod to the book by Chris Anderson - Free- The Future of a Radical Price.

I racked my brain through a year of MA program preparation trying to think of how a college could give away free courses when they don’t have the resources to offer MOOC’s. (I did find a way to give courses away, more on that coming in future blogs). However, one idea that lept to the front was to offer a TED-style event in the city of Wichita. I’m sure most readers of this blog have heard of TED and have watched at least one of the talks online. I looked into sponsoring a TEDX-event in Wichita, but in my research I discovered TED leadership have decided not to allow any religious-themed events and that is what I wanted to do. So the decision was made by Tabor College to sponsor our own event.

e-Lab emerged as an event focused around this central theme: “Conversations from the Intersection of Faith and Human Need.” Speakers came from a variety of expertise: church leadership, author, CEO, and mission director. They all had a common thread, they saw a need and filled a need within their sphere of influence.

As someone who has organized and run numerous camps and events over the years, the timing of e-Lab provides one unique benefit for helping me feel more connected to what happened on the day. Because we're in 2014 this event happened within the hyper-connected world of social media like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Through the technology of hashtags (#TaborELab) I am now able to reenter the event through reading the tweets of those who were able to engage fully in the content. For me, it’s the next best thing to participating as a guest.

Here are some of the tweets that jumped out at me.