Embracing the Prototype: A Day with Edjacent

As some of you may have noticed, we recently made the difficult decision to postpone Bespoke: A Day with Edjacent, our planned gathering scheduled to take place later this month. While some expressed disappointment, and even empathy for the organizers who had put so much time and energy into making this date happen, as the lead for the event, I myself felt positive about it. Why? Because for me it was an opportunity to affirm and live out my values: being of service to teachers, taking risks, and holding myself to seeking and using data with an open mind. 

Being of Service to Teachers

Being of service to teachers of course had to be central in an undertaking such as A Day with Edjacent, which was essentially an in-person gathering that we were hoping would meet a need for teachers. What was the need we were hoping to fill? To create a space for educators to come together towards the end of a long year and consider what was next for them, what they truly wanted to be next for them if they allowed themselves to dream big, and embrace that they could design their own legacy. As a planning team, we sought to create an experience in which every detail, from the speakers and reflection exercises to the food and setting, would be designed to support that goal, and I felt that what we built met that aspiration.

Taking Risks

It was also noteworthy that the experience reflected a significant level of risk taking. To offer something innovative is by definition to create something different, which requires a healthy tolerance for risk. What if one’s idea is not meeting the need you had hoped for, or what if you carry it out and it doesn’t go well? You have to be okay with that, and you have to have the humility to accept that despite your persuasion that what you are doing is the right step, at the right time, maybe it isn’t. After planning this day, which we hoped would be different (in a good way!), we found that educators weren’t signing up in the numbers we anticipated; based on this, my co-lead Doug Wren and I both felt comfortable with the idea that we needed to revisit our plans. 

Seeking and Using Data With an Open Mind

And this connects to the last reason why I embraced our decision to postpone our planned date, which is that I always want to ensure that any of my decisions are informed by a clear-eyed review of the data. In this case, though I was fully expecting that we would meet our participant targets that were needed in order to fully cover the event’s cost, as I reviewed the registration numbers closely each week, I had to allow those numbers to better inform my expectations. Of course one data point is not enough to allow for a complete and nuanced understanding of one’s context; however, our metric of weekly registration numbers was significant enough to weigh heavily on my assessment of the situation.

With these values firmly in mind, I felt very confident in making the hard decision to postpone the event. What might a future iteration look like? How might we listen more carefully to our educator community, to ensure better alignment with what we are offering and what they are really looking for? These are questions that will inform the next cycle of planning for any such event in the future, and I welcome the challenge of building that next prototype.

NOTE FROM EDJACENT: If you have ideas or suggestions about this event, we’d love to read them in the comments below or by using our Contact form. If you’d like to be among the first to know about the future of this event, please sign up here.

2 thoughts on “Embracing the Prototype: A Day with Edjacent”

  1. When Marthaa Torres suggested at an Edjacent designer meeting that we host an annual in-person event, everyone was immediately on board. It wouldn’t be a conference, but rather a smaller gathering of educators – a day of inspiration and action, insight and community.
    I decided to get involved in planning the event, which we decided to call Bespoke: A Day With Edjacent. Due to its fine cuisine and intimate atmosphere, we chose Commune Norfolk as the venue. Marthaa lined up two outstanding local keynote speakers and we selected Saturday, April 23 as the big day. Unfortunately, as Marthaa explained above, A Day With Edjacent has been postponed.
    Having spent 14 years as a classroom teacher, I understand why this month wasn’t ideal for holding Bespoke: A Day With Edjacent. Even before the pandemic, teachers (and students) were at their wits’ end during the last few months of the school year. Spring break couldn’t come soon enough and when it did, it wasn’t long enough. Upon returning from the break, we headed down the home stretch and used every ounce of adrenaline or whatever was available just to get to the finish line and summer: 8-10 weeks of recuperation time.
    Bespoke: A Day With Edjacent – with its speakers, interactive sessions, camaraderie, as well as food & drink – will be a worthy event for teachers. Now just isn’t the right time for it.

  2. Edjacent designer LouAnne Metzger recommended the book The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters by Priya Parker several weeks ago, but I was only just getting to it as Marthaa, Doug, and I made the call to postpone the Bespoke event. One of the most compelling chapters of this book talks about the role of the host of an event, in which the author says:

    “The kinds of gatherings that meaningfully help others are governed by what I call generous authority. A gathering run on generous authority is run with a strong, confident hand, but it is run selflessly, for the sake of others.”

    I didn’t have the words to describe Marthaa’s planning of the Edjacent gathering prior to reading this, but it is an apt description for the style with which she has led the team and process from start to finish – with a spirit of generous authority. Her primary concern from the first moment has been how best to serve the participants of the gathering, the educators she cares deeply about. There is no more “on brand” decision for Marthaa Torres than the postponement of this event.

    Marthaa’s description of how and why the event was conceived and executed helps you understand her as a wise, thoughtful and generous host. She brings this level of care to all the decisions she makes and her evergreen planning of this event is no exception. With the foundation she has built and Edjacent’s guiding principle of creating “bespoke” community, content and coaching that is just in time for our members and designers, we have firm footing for a fabulous and transformative event when the time is right.

    “A gathering is a moment in time that has the potential to alter many other moments in time,” says expert gatherer Priya Parker. I know our gathering will be a moment like this, thanks in no small part to the planning of Marthaa, Doug, and the rest of the Bespoke planning team.

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