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Community Development, Startup Weekend Mission

Ideas to improve impact of Startup Weekend inspired by SoSummit

*Disclaimer: This was an exhausting brain dump of all thoughts. There probabl is luts of grammer erors 🙂

First off I just wanted to thank the entire Startup Weekend crew for hosting an amazing summit that brought together all 150 organizers from all around the world together this past weekend at SxSW. It was truly amazing to see the global movement you all have created. There were many things I took away not just from the summit but through my participation in the actual SxSWi that I thought I would share with the team. These are just ideas so feel free to listen, use or completely disregard this entire blog post 🙂 Thank you again for organizing!

1. Cross pollination amongst our global community

We all have these small hunches about what it takes to truly design strong startup ecosystems but most of us are all blocked by similar problems. How can we use these small hunches we all have to build great ideas that allow us to have a greater impact on all of our communities?   SoSummit was a perfect example of the necessity for our global community to have more and more dialogue amongst each other because we were able to hear other strategies and experiences from people in the exact same situations we have faced and learn from their mistakes. I think it is absolutely crucial for community leaders to hear from different cultures and experiences to help design better ecosystems.

Possible solutions:

UserVoice campaign. If you haven’t used UserVoice before it is a feedback tool for businesses that engages their community to submit ideas, upvote favorite ideas and have discussions regarding topics. I used it for Startup Weekend SEA EDU as a way to have the community start discussing potential EDU ideas but it could be used in multiple different ways find best practices across the board for us. Feel free to check out the great amount of engagement we had for EDU here: http://swseaedu.uservoice.com/forums/130525-edu-problems/filters/top

Find a travel sponsor. Cost for facilitators to travel to other events is obviously the biggest road block towards cross pollination. I have been fortunate that you have been supportive of my mission and I have truly seen the benefits of me learning from others and visa versa. We could build global sponsorships with Expedia or AirBnb that are strictly focused to cover costs for global cross pollination. The facilitators/organizers who travel could ultimately be evangelists for the companies as well to make sure the sponsors have strong presence in the communities they travel to.

Reinforcing this value to our organizers.If we can educate local organizers on the value of cross pollination and the positive effects it will have on their impact, we can almost challenge them to raise that additional sponsorships for facilitator costs. In some areas it almost seems like a reward and privilege that someone traveled so far to help out this specific community. This encouragement could come in a simple email from the ops teams when they are in talks with a new organizer.

2. Utilizing alumni’s to create a stronger community.

There is something about when people who have gone through a process come back and are given a responsibility to mentor others who are brand new to a process that is truly empowering. Think of fraternities/sororities and the bonds it creates. The same could work for all participants at Startup Weekends to not only help teach best practices to be successful at a Startup Weekend but more importantly to create new bonds and relationships.

Possibly Solutions:

Asking alumni’s to host pre-events. Whether it is a simple gathering at a bar or something a little more structured where alumni’s are paired up with new attendees to share knowledge, I think there is strong value there. Asking alumni’s to host a small gathering also gives them a sense of responsibility where they feel their previous participation was beneficial to the growth of the community and now gives them a sense of progression.

Alumni badge. An interesting idea may be to put how many Startup Weekends you have participated in on peoples badges so when individuals are networking can easily spot people with experience and ask them more questions about the process while networking.

3. Startup Weekend core pillars

I think it was great that Marc started to really emphasize that Startup Weekend is really about impact and as SW continues to grow rapidly, it may be great to see exactly what the core mission is and flesh out the Startup Weekend pillars in which move the mission forward. What do we always revert back to which help us achieve this global impact we aspire to create? Lean methodologies? Fostering community conversations? Experiential Education? It may be powerful from a brands perspective but also may help organizers/facilitators focus in on how to achieve what you define as success.

Possible solution:

– Ask the global community what we believe to be our core values.You could also use UserVoice to easily manage this as well, then by next SoSummit present to us what we came up with.

4. Challenge new organizers on WHY Startup Weekend

As SW continues to rapidly grow, I think we need to also be cautious that SW doesn’t exhaust its brand. With the growth we need to ensure the quality of education and impact continues as well. What can we do to challenge new organizers that they have thought through why they need Startup Weekend rather than just because the rest of the world is doing it.

Possible Solution:

– Have organizers do more of the HW to apply.Having more qualitative questions such as; what are your communities economic strengths? What are your communities weaknesses? What is your vision for community and how does SW fit into that process? How do you plan to continue to progress post SW? What are your communities NEEDS and how do you plan to cater SW to fit them?

5. Implement more design thinking for our facilitators

I do believe facilitators have extreme power to either make or break a SW and think we need to view our facilitators with more of a design thinking focus. If you can empower them to be community designers rather than just implementors of our SW model, it will help take the quality control off of the ops team and empower facilitators to really make an impact on communities all around the world. Simple overview in the steps of a design thinking process: The learning phases of design thinking are really about submersing yourself into the community to truly figure out the needs of the community. As facilitators we need to understand that a Startup Weekend is Seattle is faaaaaar different than creating an impacting Startup Weekend in Jackson, Mississippi. Replicating one process and simply plopping into a completely different culture doesn’t have the social impact SW has the potential for. Once facilitators and organizers can define the needs of the specific culture, then we can collaboratively design and test what we believe to be the best Startup Weekend process (pre, during and post).

Possible Solution:

-A facilitator training summit. A retreat where we educate our global facilitators on design thinking to help drastically change the lives of the communities we enter and which create a completely new sense of community development.

6. Storytelling

We have a collection of so many stories and hearing 5 at the summit was extremely powerful, but we have thousands of more. How can we capitalize on all these stories to not only expand the reach of the Startup Weekend brand but also give the facilitators and organizers more meaning behind what they are doing? I know Khalid has a strong perspective on this and I completely agree.

Possible Solution:

– Startup Weekend Stories. Create a separate section of the blog dedicated towards organizers/ facilitators stories. Maybe one requirement is to have each organizer write a blog post or shoot a video that documents something amazing that happened at their event. This could be a qualitative way in which we measure ways we are creating impact, through the stories our communities tell.

About Joey Aquino

@Joey_Aquino https://joeyaquino.wordpress.com/ http://www.linkedin.com/in/jdaquino



  1. Pingback: SOSummit 2012! | Startup Weekend - March 14, 2012

  2. Pingback: S.O. Summit 2013: The Journey | Startup Weekend - April 2, 2013

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