ALC-NYC Summer Planning (narrative)

This post started as my journaling the process @ryanshollenberger and I went through in planning the first ALF Summer program outside the Network program in Charlotte, NC in the 2015-2016 school year. It’s one of 3 posts I’m putting together from my experience planning the NYC programs so far. 

While I didn’t write that we were able to start how we did because we 1) had use of the school as a location and 2) had use of the school PayPal/bank accounts, which let us both send invoices and set the payment deadline later than we would have if we’d needed the money up front to pay the guest teachers and the caterer. 

For 2016-2017, we looked at our feedback and reflections from the previous year and adjusted our plans accordingly. We also incorporated our new staff–@melody and @theanchor–into our planning. The bones of the program had served us well enough; those didn’t change. The most major planned changes were inviting multiple parents to come share as a panel about their experiences (so grateful to Alex, Diane, Sarah, Rachel, and Taasha!) and adjusting our closing/reflective exercises to be less structured and more personal. While our intentions in hosting the program had broadened (we were definitely more focused on supporting the Network than finding local collaborators than we’d been in 2016), our underlying program goals turned out to be almost exactly the same.

Here’s what I wrote about planning the 2016 summer program…

Mid-January, aware that the growth of ALC in NYC and the tri-state area will be smoother and more powerful if we have more practiced facilitators/entrepreneurs in the area, Ryan and I decided it was time to host a training at ALC-NYC. “ALF Summer”–pioneered by @nancy–had so far only happened in Charlotte, where planners arrange housing and transportation for participants on top of planning programming, running a nested summer camp program, and providing food. Right away, we opted to run a lighter program: we prioritized local participants and left travelers responsible for their own housing, we took advantage of having more extensive public transportation than Charlotte, and we forfeited potential summer camp revenue to release ourselves from summer camp paperwork. We were clear that our priorities were sharing our learning, supporting new projects/facilitators, and budgeting so we could break even.

We agreed to draw up our visions for the program independently and share/compare them the following day. We anticipated overlap in terms of basics we’d like to see covered, and we were hopeful that each of us will cover the things the other forgot. Here are my January 21st notes:

I came home tonight and turned the scattered notes I’ve been taking over the past two weeks into a sketch. In doing so, it became clear to me that I don’t actually want to offer the first three days as a conference or festival. If one of our intentions is to be connecting change-makers rooted in NYC, then we need to make time for them to build relationships.

I found it easy enough to mark out the daily rituals (opening, eating, cleaning, circling). I then played with the idea of giving the first three days loose themes…and realized that I like the feel of the Be/Think/Do from the Archetypes exercise. From there I filled in a basic sketch of what the first three days could look like, with flex time and play time built in. This took some focused and strategic thought, but it wasn’t as difficult as I had anticipated.

Planning days four through twelve felt funny, because I intentionally “planned” them as minimally as possible. I’m pretty pleased with myself for coming up with a new expanded definition of STW (Set The Week…our 5-day-sprint scheduling meeting) that wasn’t limited by the number of days defined as a week. Hopefully, Ryan likes Set The Warp (get it? like in weaving?) as much as I do 🙂

I’m also pleased with the possible last day closing rituals that I cobbled together. I don’t want to share and spoil them yet…

Once we met and patched our notes into a unified framework, I began the less fun work of budgeting. Ry and I discussed approximate numbers of participants we’d like in the space, decided we wanted to provide lunch, and agreed we would like to make enough to pay ourselves and some guest facilitators (like Yoni and some of those contractor ALFs…). If we turned a profit, the plan was to put it towards the school.

I looked up typical costs of similar programs in New York City and calculated what our tuition would be if we charged the same as them per day. From that, I picked some numbers that felt like they would both value our work/time and be accessible to me-of-three-years-ago. I also researched how much it would take to cater lunch for different numbers of people for the duration of our program. Numbers numbers numbers, crunch crunch crunch. I worked out projected budgets depending on different numbers of applicants, but I haven’t yet looked up how much each of the guest facilitators we’d like to invite usually makes per hour. That’ll be important going forward…

Once numbers, dates, and times were chosen, I got to work building a webpage–complete with forms–for the event. My WordPress skills have been slowly improving over this past year. I had to rework the page a few times (more text or less? links to click or all the information on one long scroll-able page?), but ended up pretty happy with it. I shared it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, the Nonsense NYC listserve (Thanks, Jeff Stark!), and the nycagile.org website (in a banner at the top).

Then we waited….

As applications came in, I replied to questions (vegetarian meal options? childcare available?) and kept updating the “applicants” tab on my planning spreadsheet. WordPress made this really easy; I just exported application form entries as a .csv then opened them in Google Sheets.

On line, I translated my hand-written notes into a “finances” and a “schedule” tab on that same spreadsheet. This let me share with Ryan more easily, so we could track updates as things changed. Off line, Ryan and I arranged the program set-up by coordinating with teenagers from the community to offer childcare, organizing the catering through an ALC-NYC parent, scheduling a Acro-Balance and Cooking with Yoni Kallai and Nancy Hooper, asking the marvelous Alex Patz to come share about her experience as an ALC parent, and checking the alignment of our intentions with ALFs who asked about dropping in.

In late spring, we told the parent community at school about the training. We offered discounted rates for those who wanted to attend, and we let them know that we’d run the second week of the training as a week of bonus school that their kids could attend for free. While this made the end of the proper school year feel a little strange, it ended up being an awesome gift to offer parents, kids, and new facilitators.

About a month before the program, I emailed everyone who had applied, asking for dietary restrictions/allergies and letting them know I’d be sending invoices via PayPal. Ryan and I also brainstormed about supplies we would need; we ordered some extra dry erase markers and toilet paper 🙂

Two weeks before the program, I emailed again. This time, I send out both the details from the website (address, dates, times), newer details (childcare rates, what to bring), and suggested reading (really just the Network website…). I asked for questions anyone might have, and I shared that Ryan and I would be sending out a call for introductions the week before the program.

A week before the program–while wrapping up the school year–Ryan and I sent out the call for introductions, which we started by introducing ourselves. We refined our schedule and sorted out our roles for different points. We discussed breakfasts, and I confirmed lunches with our caterer. Then I sent invoice reminders and updated my spreadsheets.

The day the program started, we arrived early to clean, set up breakfast/coffee/nametags, and arrange our workspace. Folks started showing up and…we were off!

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