Review: Running your own FAILFaire

Review by Isabeau Iqbal

Running your own FAILFaire

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Written in 2011, this blog post describes the author`s experience of organizing and hosting a FAILFaire for the World Bank.  What is a “FAILFaire?” you wonder. A FAILFaire is an event that recognizes projects, within an organization, that have not worked: “the pilots that never got anywhere, the applications that are not delivering, the projects that are not having any measurable impact on the lives of people, and the cultural or technical problems that arise."(MobileAction NGO, quoted in blog post). The philosophy driving FAILFaire initiatives is that sharing lessons about what doesn`t work can encourage people to be innovative and entrepreneurial because lack of results if a likely outcome of any innovation.

Trucano cautions that these events are not about celebrating failures, but rather about providing “a space in which people can celebrate taking risks and the open and honest sharing of information (even and especially about what doesn't work or isn't working) so that we could learn from these things.” He proposes that FAILFaires have two main objectives:

  • to generate lessons learned from experience and determine how these may be useful to other colleagues working on similar projects;
  • to encourage open dialogue among colleagues about how to respond to professional challenges, in the hopes of addressing these more productively.
In this article, Trucano shares seven ground rules for presenters, many links and also offers other practical suggestions and lessons learned from his own experience.

Prior to reading this post, I had not heard about a FAILFaire. If this idea intrigues you even just a little bit, I would recommend this post for its clearly written content and links to several resources.  Within our educational development community, I see many applications. Keeping the two overall objectives in mind (above), FAILFaire events could include:
  • A FAILFaire within your Centre for centre staff only
  • A FAILFaire at an EDC conference (lessons learned for educational development) or SoTL conference (lessons learned in research design or implementation)
  • Help a receptive department or Faculty organize a FAILFaire in which faculty members and other instructors share their teaching and learning failures
  • If you blog, consider sharing an educational development failure and what you have learnt from it


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