The Carpentries Community Facilitators Program: 6-months in

Feedback is important for The Carpentries’ growth

In September 2020, The Carpentries introduced the Community Facilitators Program. This new initiative sought to create new pathways for active involvement in everyday community activities by more community members. This program was developed to sustain the growing Carpentries community and support other core programs that contribute to the advancement of our mission. In November 2020, we met The Carpentries Feedback Facilitators, who were onboarded as our first cohort of Community Facilitators, focussing on feedback facilitation.

Over the last six months, as Feedback Facilitators in The Carpentries, these community members aimed to:

  • collect and organise community feedback shared publicly and informally in Carpentries spaces for ease of filtering, action and response in the community,
  • periodically offer official recommendations and kickstart conversations on issues and items that the Core Team should prioritise,
  • maintain a public, community-faciliators repository that collates community feedback on different initiatives and experiences in The Carpentries
  • recommend topics for Carpentries Conversations and Themed Discussions to the Instructor Development and Communications facilitation team as appropriate For this blog post, we asked each of them to share their experience. Here is what they said:

Highlights of feedback collected

  • While there are privacy concerns, automation can help make better use of the feedback that is collected.
  • Think about inclusiveness when preparing to teach, running a workshop and/or developing lesson material.
  • Framing feedback within an ecosystem can help find insights into how communities work.
  • In alignment with the FAIR principles, collaborating, sharing resources, and ensuring accessibility, all help to improve the experience of different parts of the community.
  • Ease of technology usage is one of the factors that will motivate or become a hurdle for trainers and learners (i.e. experiences of using Zoom breakout rooms).
  • Ensuring that we teach best practices related to accessibility is important because of the amplifying effect our instructors have. For example, in plotting lessons, we should be sure to include colour pallets that are accessible to people experiencing colour blindness.

Challenges and opportunities

  • Data mining on Topicbox is challenging as it does not have an easily accessible API.
  • An open and inclusive community culture has already been established and is growing.
  • Sometimes, it is vague who is taking action, and feedback implementation could take a long time.
  • The emotional dimension of giving and receiving feedback relates to a person’s sense of belonging and contribution to a particular community.
  • In The Carpentries, there’s an excellent opportunity to make good on accessibility policy by experimenting with tools to build into daily practice. However, this can create new diversity challenges.
  • The Feedback Facilitators program is an excellent opportunity to reflect on how the values of The Carpentries interact at the workshop level and in a broader Carpentries community context.
  • The Feedback Facilitators program should be leveraged for the overall improvement of workshops and The Carpentries communities.
  • There are many places where feedback happens and it is difficult to monitor all of them. Addressing feedback in a timely manner is important as it is demotivating for someone to provide feedback only to then feel ignored. During workshops, timely feedback is well integrated with surveys and stickies, but feedback to the organization is less well integrated. We need to figure out how we can be more responsive to feedback and if we need to find a way to centralise feedback.

New ideas, questions and suggestions

  • The Feedback Facilitators role is suitable for community building, improving oneself, and Carpentries lessons. Carpentries workshops typically encourage feedback, but collecting offline written feedback may be challenging. With virtual workshops, it is possible to teach people in various locations; adjustments will be needed since giving good feedback online might differ.
  • The Carpentries is a diverse and extensive community, and thus, it is understandable that things could go slowly. We should think about the best way to have both a big community and agility in the sense of a feedback-improvement loop.
  • Community building, coordination and facilitation is a continuous process, and there might be no ‘perfect state’ of community. We need ongoing engagement to help develop and nourish our community.
  • Some feedback received can readily be incorporated; some require considering others’ viewpoints, further investigation, consultation, etc. Regardless of the time it takes, we need to improve the learning experience all around the world. We should not hesitate to provide feedback. It helps us improve.
  • Feedback is hard but needed! Thus it becomes of paramount importance to strike a proper balance and work towards the growth of The Carpentries.
  • We should find a way to regularly solicit feedback, like a monthly or weekly tweet asking the community for feedback, so we can ensure that people see that the organization is welcoming and receptive to feedback.

We thank the Feedback Facilitators for all the work they accomplished, and for approaching this work with our values in mind. We acknowledge that some feedback might be slowly addressed, especially now as we onboard our new Director of Community, Dr Alycia Crall. Developing a comprehensive plan for receiving and responding to community feedback, alongside the Feedback Facilitators, will be a priority for her in the upcoming weeks, and she’ll continue to update the community on the Community Development Team’s progress as this work continues. If you missed it, the Feedback Facilitation module of our Community Facilitators Program is available for anyone to review.

Dialogue & Discussion

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