A debrief about organizing OpenEd Jam

Now that OpenEd Jam has officially happened. I’m going to take some time to reflect on what led up to the event, people’s reaction to the event, and my plans (as of only this moment) for the future of OpenEd Jam. Until now, I haven’t mentioned much about OpenEd Jam on my blog. I figure now that the first event has happened, I can barely start to reflect on it. The following is a short debrief on how I went about organizing it including some sticky situations and general lack of understanding on my part.

Planning and executing OpenEd Jam was an experience I never imagined having. It all started from a message I sent out to friends. I just wanted to sit and discuss ideas about freely licensed software/hardware with some friends. Well, that turned into something much larger. Someone offered the idea of making a confe rence on this theme. Before I knew it, I was planning a full blown conference on freely licensed educational materials. And this was in the middle of December, in the midst of the holidays, basically six months before the event took place.


Since I had never done anything like this before, I think it was a little easier for me to go with the flow about it. Throughout the initial weeks I would think things like, “We probably need a logo. One of my friends is a designer…maybe they’d like to help out with a logo. I’ll have to remember to ask him next time I see him.” I asked people I knew for help, reached out to different communities through email to try to connect with people who might like to speak at the event, created a Twitter account, tweeted from the account, helped create a fully freely licensed website for the event, set up “Planning Committee Meetings”.

And sure enough, people were responsive. I saw this as a good sign that this idea of bringing together the community surrounding freely licensed education materials was actually doable and wanted.

The first few months, I really was just stumbling upon different ideas and going with them. I saw that Open Education Week was in March so I figured I’d tweet a bunch about OpenEd Jam and host an Open Education Week event in San Antonio to try to gain momemtum and hopefully get people in San Antonio aware of the Open Education movement. I think this worked well. People started engaging with me online about the event and asking questions. People’s curiousity about the event kept the idea alive.

Then, I started to feel overwhelmed. Having never done this before, I didn’t really have systems in place to handle all of the communication with people and had to make lots of stuff up as I went along. Thank goodness for the internet and friends. I would’ve failed miserably without them. I had little to no clue about about project management, writing a press release, determining an appropriate location, fundraising generally, and “how the heck are we going to funnel the money?” ‘Fiscal sponsor, duh.’ The world of non-profit event planning eluded me.

It still does.

Anyway, people started submitting session proposals in April. That was such an awesome feeling. All of these amazing people were interested in coming to this event to meet people who were interested and doing things in the Open Education field. I couldn’t believe the amount of proposals we got.

I had initially said we would try to fund travel scholarships for people who couldn’t afford the trip (being an AmeriCorps VISTA, I know all about that). Unfortunately though, I quickly realized that we would simply not have enough funding the first time around. This was quite a disappointing thing for me. I wish I could’ve raised more funds, so people who were genuinely amazing could come to the event without killing their wallets. San Antonio is a hard place to travel to.

Hopefully, the next OpenEd Jam will be able to fund some travel scholarships for these exemplary people.

I will leave this post as it is now. I’m mostly covering logisitics in this post to get it out of the way, so I can focus more on what happened at the event and how it can be improved for next year in my next posts. I hope this post gives you a first glimpse into my process for organizing the event, failures and successes all.