Startup Weekend Education Melbourne

Last weekend saw the first Startup Weekend Education in Melbourne and I was lucky enough to be one of the organisers.  Startup Weekends are typically a grassroot movement to empower entrepreneurs….. although ours was a little different.  Education Startup Weekends are typically aimed at entrepreneurs to work with educators to develop ideas for education….. but ours was a little different.

With my fellow organisers, Kynan Robinson and Hamish Curry we had attended similar events in the past but had felt there was another level to these weekends.  We aimed to bring more rigor to the event and ensure it was about learning from the process.  To do this we enlisted the help of Marina Paronetto, who helped us to connect with the startup world.  The concept of the weekend was to bring developers and designers from the startup world together with inspired educators to solve some of the big issues in education.  Participants were invited to pitch their educational problems in one minute and teams were formed to work on solving the problem over the rest of the weekend.  The emphasis was on problems rather than ideas as the last thing education needs is another solution that overlooks the problem.

Early on the Saturday morning teams came together to define their problem.  They spoke to educators, researched their area and spent the first day finding patterns in their problem to help them ideate.  We really wanted to focus on this part of the process for teams and encouraged them to find out as much as possible before jumping into building ideas as so often we see the problem being lost in the solutions. Once they had defined the problem, teams worked on coming up with different ideas before choosing one to prototype.

Our amazing coaches arrived to support teams and things started to get busy.  By Saturday night teams were starting to validate their ideas in the market using surveys and asking for feedback from their networks. By Sunday morning teams were out and about on the streets gathering feedback and iterating their initial ideas to create a solution to pitch at the final presentation. Some teams had prototyped websites and others had set up social media accounts.

Regardless of what was pitched at the final on Sunday we wanted the process to be the winner of the weekend.  After I attended my first Eduhack event I was really excited by what I could learn from the startup methodology and it was evident that I could use this process to make change in education.  I also realised how much the startup community could learn from actually talking to an educator and hearing about what it is really like in education.  This was a big part of the weekend where people got to learn from each other by working together. It was also the reason we took the competition out of the weekend, which allowed teams to be more collaborative and work together to solve problems.

As you can imagine after a weekend of early mornings, late nights and head hurting thinking everyone was exhausted by Sunday night but the accomplishments of the weekend made every minute worthwhile.  It was very humbling to think we had these 30 odd designers, developers and educators learning from each other to solve real problems in education. Although there were some amazing ideas and projects to come out of the weekend more so it was the learning from each other in an intense process of design that was the highlight.

Like any intense event like this I have spent the week in a state of loss as I said goodbye to people I met over the weekend. Dare I say, I can’t wait for the next one. Sometime in the future….