• The Open Workshop

    by  • September 15, 2011 • Everything Else • 1 Comment

    or, unpicking workshop design to create genuinely open exchange

    So I’ve been experimenting with various formats for a workshop here in Cloughjordan. I’ve been trying to find something that people were interested enough in doing, and that would get the work out there.

    But I realized, after somewhat lukewarm response, that I was thinking too much about “I want to run a workshop and get paid to do it, how do people do that?” This, of course, is Not Helpful, because I’m not like other people, and I’m not teaching what they are teaching, so expecting that their models would work for me is not sensible.

    Generally speaking, I try to afford people as much freedom as possible to do what they like with my ideas.

    • things are unbundled
    • there’s no ideology
    • items are public domain, generally speaking
    • I don’t project manage collaborators

    What I hadn’t figured out is that I need to do the same in a workshop setting. So here’s what I’m proposing.

    1. You know me and my work, or you wouldn’t be interested in coming to a workshop.
    2. You’ve already got access to a fairly substantial archive of my lectures and papers.
    3. What’s left, then, is individual curiosity about applications.

    So if you had the cash, you could just fly out, sit me down for a week, and I could teach you whatever you wanted to know. It might cost you a thousand bucks – Gupta’s private mentoring program, for madmen only, just like the magic theater.

    Better, though, might be a chance to get the download on your own terms, with your choice of companions, covering the material that you are most interested in. And you or I could also invite other people (for example, Dougald Hine) to teach at the same time.

    So this leads me to The Open Workshop. Here’s the idea.

    1. You find a group of people who want to learn what I have to teach, and figure out with me what the precise syllabus will be.
    2. Your group split the cost of my time and accommodation however you like.
    3. I teach The Thing, whatever it might be, from my repertoire.

    And, as I mentioned, you can invite whoever you like to co-teach, or I can bring in specialists if I’m not the best person for a specific aspect of your area of interest.

    In terms of costs, accommodation at Django’s Hostel is minimally 105EUR a week. My time, let’s say, is 200EUR a day, but a really involved workshop might take a couple of weeks of planning and preparation on my part, depending on the complexity of the material and the depth of the ask. I think a maximum practicable group size is about two dozen, less for extremely intensive material.

    So how do those numbers add up?

    • A one week workshop for 20 people based on material I know well already (one day prep) would cost 165EUR including accommodation.
    • A one week workshop for 12 people, requiring three weeks of prep because it’s material I don’t usually teach and in-depth, with catering, would be about 460EUR.

    I should probably be paying myself about twice that amount, but people aren’t exactly beating down my door for an education, and I can always raise prices later if demand warrants. But at this point I think I’ve come up with a recipe which seems right to me – collaboratively creating the experiences that people want, splitting the load of design and putting bums-on-seats with the clients (that’s you) and doing it at a price that my friends can afford. It’s a way of amortizing the cost of putting my attention on your area of interest, basically.

    So I’m open to offers and I’ll continue to develop workshop syllabus material as time permits. In the long run, I think it’s what I want to spend my time doing for a while, exploring a more oral, more interactive way of making the work available.

    Thanks for your attention!

    PS: I’ve put up an editable Google Doc, if people want to do a little thinking together on this.

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    Vinay Gupta is a consultant on disaster relief and risk management.


    One Response to The Open Workshop

    1. Nick R.
      September 15, 2011 at 1:28 pm

      I’m very interested in seeing some of your ideas put forth in Physical Aspects of Distributed Infrastructure being developed. Would you be interested in doing a course where some of these ideas (solar composter, geothermal systems for hexayurt ect) were built?

      Aside from learning how to build suitable post industrial distributed infrastructure my most pressing question is how to stay afloat financially well doing so.

      If you could tackle those two questions I’d fly over and attend a course, or if you where interested pay to have you come to a US farm and teach.

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