Where did we fail in organizing this open event? Help build a short Book of LOTE5 (un)Fails!

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Where did we fail? Where can we unFail?

Contributors: Alberto, Kira, Quinn, Hazem, Noemi, Alex, add your name

Story 1: How I became involved with LOTE5? Why? Where did some of my personal expectations fail to be met?

We were dealing with cultural differences and I didn’t stop to think about this in advance. For me it’s very important that we start on time, and that we keep track of the schedule. Not sure how we can do this in the next LOTE, but maybe in Milan people will expect a very strict structure. It could be a detail, but for me it was unsettling.

It was never clearly assigned who was doing the physical organisation and coordination. I said I would do it onsite, but I didn’t stop to think that this would mean more than telling people where to be and what time. In my mind I would have a very good overview and I could help everyone, but a lot of it happened, I didn’t anticipate the maintenance work, that people need to be told how to clean etc.  

For the preparation, it was such a cool thing that people could only join by building part of the event, but next time it should be clear that even though you’re doing keynotes, you’re still responsible for the day to day maintenance. Solution: Having clear somehow how the event management and cleaning and preparations work, and helping the individuals work with individual tasks, sessions etc. (Kira)


Story 2: How I became involved with LOTE5? Why? Where did some of my personal expectations fail to be met?

Speaking from my experience of speakers, one of the trickiest thing was expectations: What we were getting ourselves into and what was expected of us. It took us all the conference to understand what ER was and what the purpose of the conference was. We really appreciated the different format, style, and that everyone is really great.

The lack of really understanding where the presentations were, it was a bit difficult to know. A lot was happening!  Both of us were used to structure, used to know where to go and when. We thought maybe this was intentionally built into the conference, but by the end it seemed it isn’t.

What was really helpful was the abundant feedback on our session. (Quinn)


Story 3: How I became involved with LOTE5? Why? Where did some of my personal expectations fail to be met?

I became involved with LOTE5 because i was interested in learning more about the people behind the network. I also wanted a reason to reach further into the Edgeryders platform which i had previously only scratched the surface. I immediately signed on to the food team because i knew that was an area i understood, could be of immediate benefit to, and would guarantee me a series of tasks and a ready made group of people that i could talk to. I wasn’t disappointed. I actually found it a very quick and easy way into the understanding what the whole of LOTE would be like. There had obviously been a lot of hard work and effort gone into making sure we had a space, equipment and the correct ingredients but a slight disconnect between the preparation team and the delivery team (perhaps this is an analogy for the whole weekend). My assumption (like Quinn) was that was intentionally built into the weekend and so i carried that assumption through the weekend with me (Alex)


Story 4: How I became involved with LOTE5? Why? Where did some of my personal expectations fail to be met?


Story 5: How I became involved with LOTE5? Why? Where did some of my personal expectations fail to be met?


1. How we started preparations

The dreaming up of LOTE5 - what we intended and where we failed to anticipate needs.

I thought that having a formal partner for the event (contractual) means unloading a lot of effort which is traditionally on the Edgeryders organisation. It turns out you can’t have a new team of people barely familiar with how Edgeryders works and expect them to carry the heaviest load. Coordination is just as expensive as execution, and doing both amounts to a lot of work and for the future paid positions (Noemi)

2. How we organised the core of the event: On the successes and failures of building collaborative events

The specifics of organising the event using predominantly online infrastructure: as core organiser, as participant, as partner. State aspects that did not go as expected and how those can be improved.

*** Debating the trade-off in organisation format


Everyone’s engaged

Not enough structure

More centralized at the core

Less engaged

More structure (clear division between participants and organisers)

Noemi: this is a trade-off we are considering all the time.

Kira: We did think about doing it, but Irene and I were new to Edgeryders and we didn’t know everyone, so it’s hard to assign tasks

Noemi: organising events like ER projects - project management, timeline, metrics, and clear allocation of responsibilities.

Hazem: I would not change the format. What I seen as the main difference was that this one was more open to newcomers. But each has different expectations. It was not clear what was going on. LOTE4 was about unMonastery, not Edgeryders - people were mostly communicating through the platform; if we look at interactions online we may be able to see that. I think some people were lost till the very end day. | Mostly the onsite stuff I agree with - it needs a bit more centralized info point. I’m guessing the sessions online weren’t promoted too much, maybe because they weren’t rich in information. | Have an onsite problem solving team; eg Quinn is responsible for keeping the time, but only for one day.

Your two pillars are the grid and the culture.

  1. Grid: architecturally speaking, we can only have open events - micromanaged events take too many resources and we don’t have them. Open events don’t have to be chaotic - you have a grid before and the freedom is in filling in the grid. Eg you have a long coffee break in the morning for sessions that are late. Coffee breaks are a good redundancy.
  2. Culture: the shared culture - in previous events (a little smaller) we had the online channel of onboarding that worked in a comprehensive way. In this case we had an influx of people that were not onboarded. People imitate what others do - if you are in a room where people don’t wash their teacups, they assume it’s how it’s done and won’t clean. (Alberto)

I think Hazem’s idea above (info team) is a very good one. I come from an events organisation background and so i know that people need to be reminded of the basics (or the things that we find ‘culturally’ acceptable/unacceptable in each environment) If people aren’t explicitly told to ‘turn off your phone’ or ‘turn on your phone, take pictures and tweet them’ then they don’t know what to do and they default to what they would normally do ‘at home’. This needs to be explained regularly, at the beginnings and ends of sessions/days/events to catch everyone.

I think even if you had a rotating team of people who were easily identifiable as ‘helpers’ or ‘problem solvers’ for each day that would help if you have a lot of new members (like myself) or you have interested locals who have stumbled onto us, or are there to meet one specific person.

I also think that people don’t like hierarchy when it comes to setting agendas, or controlling conversations etc, but they love it when it comes to cleaning toilets. I think that people would overlook a more centralised structure within the organisation if it was clear that it was in order to ensure these basic areas of hygiene are covered for them. (Alex)

Communication team

Program team

Fail: When we set it up we barely knew what themes around failure we would approach. We didn’t even have a stub of a program when we started fundraising in October - which is 4 months before the actual event. This is a challenge - you want to have the program shaped by participants, but you also need something concrete to show to potential funders. Solution: need a high level program when we start organising an event (fail contributed by Noemi)

A speaker’s flight shouldn’t have been sponsored when said speaker is resourceful and the expectation to prepare more isn’t made clear. Working closer with speakers to make sure they don’t do lectures, but more like workshops (Kira)

On the first day we were adamant on arriving on time, saw people being late, and by the end of it we weren’t coming on time (Quinn)

Starting at 9:30 is too early, by all cultural norms apparently when you have this much diversity. There is a built in element of delay, and you have to design for it (Alberto, Noemi agrees)

Suggestion: start each day with a short keynote speech (15mins) that can happen over coffee and happens in a communal area. John’s keynote was the lens through which i viewed everything at LOTE5 and i found that a really useful start to the Friday conference. I’m sure if i had another on on Saturday from someone else i would have really appreciated that too. Sometimes it’s nice to start the day with someone talking to you and not having to respond.

This would draw peoples attention at the beginning of the day, encourage them to arrive on time and also allow you a chance to introduce the ‘support team’ for the day in person/explain the ground rules for the day and generally cohere everyone together. Think of it as the opposite of the end of day feedback and sharing plenary. (Alex)

Food team

While this was the perfect and best example of how you can coordinate online in advance to assemble a team, we failed at ensuring that responsibility in the team was shared equally - having one or two people slaving in the kitchen and missing out on sessions is not OK.

Food = mess. For every person on the food team there needs to be someone on the cleaning team. Anywhere that we cook needs to also have the correct facilities to clean and wash afterward too.

It’s inevitable that people involved in these areas will have to miss sessions before or after lunch. There needs to be a way of balancing this loss, either by making up for it in another way, or by mitigating it. (personal note - as one of the people who was in the kitchen a lot i never felt left out, unappreciated or unhappy with my situation - kitchens attract people who like being in them. I would be really interested to see what happens next with the idea of FoodOnTheEdge - i think we could run a mini conference strand that took place in the kitchen next time and operated as a cross between a normal session and the disco soupe model) (Alex)

Logistics: venue, travels and accommodation team

Brussels Art Factory didnt give us any instructions for keeping the space “this is how to handle it”; it is an easy thing to do. If someone gives us the venue, I didn’t stop to think that it means taking someone’s time in full, that you are asking for the people’s time who are behind the space (Kira)

EWB also has a national conference annually; while the chairs of the conference were paid, but most organizers weren’t - mostly student chapters. Normally people would be excited about an event planning volunteering opportunity. The idea of collaborating for conference tickets is great. Lieza’s quote: “The people who want to save the world don’t want to do the dishes” (Quinn)

I would say we need to add a napping area onsite - for people to rest (Hazem, Alex agrees)

The venue needs a communal space that is near the entrance. The coffee area, and the events space(souk?) were lovely areas to meet and relax, but they were too far away from the front entrance. This meant that new people were already lost by the time they found us & it made having a front desk for information difficult and Kira and Irene had to keep running off to open the door (Alex)

Documenting LOTE5 - call for #fail #unfail reporters

3. How we ended - LOTE5 in Brussels.

We pushed so much for a couple of short days - in a way it’s nice, but in the end you have such a big rush and lasts so little. Make it longer and have moments of breathing too, not night time activities every night, so people can unwind (Kira- agreed alex)

*** What is a no-no for you in terms of how we used the online platform and channels in coordinating the event?

Kira: understanding how ER works is very hard. It takes time, longer than you would expect. (agreed - alex)

Hazem: it’s not something we need to scrap, LOTE is still very big in experience, and this online coordination seems to be needed.

Quinn: expectations were a little bit complicated, but it’s on us to get that, not necessarily on ER (agreed - alex)

Alex: only through agreeing to participate in LOTE and help out with various tasks did i begin to understand how the platform works. It requires a lot of time, interest and patience to dig through the ER website, especially as there is no clear delineation between current projects and old/dead/dormant areas. I expect that this is intentional, but it does seem deliberately obscuring.

*** Readings before starting any LOTE:



Most relevant to keep in mind for LOTE6

Have an onsite problem solving team.

Start each day with a short keynote speech (15mins) that can happen over coffee and happens in a communal area. Go through the daily schedule and support team.

The venue needs a communal space that is near the entrance.

For every person on the food team there needs to be someone on the cleaning team.

Allo for unwind time. Make sure there is a healthy mix of brainy activities with body activities.