4-in-4: Running Your Own

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Running a 4 in 4 event is easy. All that’s really required is a coordinator, some space and a group of people who want to participate.

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THE RULES

It’s not about rules. A 4-in-4 event is simply an organized time and place for people who want to do four creative projects in four days. That said, experience shows that a few guidelines can be helpful so here’s some things to consider.

  1. It’s damn near impossible to define what a creative project is. Therefore, the mandate of having a name for your project and publicly documenting the results at the end of the day is pretty important. These two criteria tend to encourage the type of work that gets people away from slavishly completing to-do lists and into crafting something interesting and conceptually coherent that’s worthy of sharing with others. (if you don’t care about any of that, check out the excellent but less immersive Thing-a-Day instead).
  2. Full participation is doing a project every day for four days. This should be strongly encouraged but naturally there’s no way to enforce it. Some people who fully intend to do all four find that life can thwart their plans. Other people are highly desirable participants even if they only show up for a single day. Flexibility is part of the creative spirit. On the other hand so is total commitment. Strive for plenty of both.
  3. People should be encouraged to work in the same physical space. Remote participants can join by video, chat or in other ways so that they are included in the community. (While we were initially reluctant to encourage remote participation, it turned out that often far-away people brought great enthusiasm that strengthened the sense of community.) Seeing, hearing and smelling the other projects is an important part of the 4-in-4 experience.
  4. Documentation should be public and in a unified location. Online is great; consider posters or presentations as interesting alternatives.
  5. Four days seems to be a pretty good timeframe. Seven in seven burned everyone out. Five in fives were better, but by the last day participation really dragged. One or two days doesn’t seem like enough time to build community or creative variety. Then again remember that thing about how it’s not about rules? Do your thing.

SUGGESTED SCHEDULE:

WELL IN ADVANCE

  1. Pick a place. It’s best to have a common work area like a classroom, conference room or workshop area with tables, light and a lock so you can secure it at night. It’s motivating to be in the same room with a bunch of other people who are doing fun creative projects, bouncing ideas off each other and helping each other out as needed. Reserve this space in advance, checking with whomever is in charge at the school, company or organization to make sure that you won’t conflict with other events.
  2. Select some potential times. Work with the space to figure out a few different blocks of time that might work. Try to find times when your potential participants are most likely to have some flexibility in their schedules, yet still be in town. Avoid family holidays, final exams, general company deadlines and so forth.
  3. Make announcements to people in your school, company and/or social set letting them know that you are organizing a 4-in-4 and suggesting some times if you haven’t already decided.
  4. Start a list of participants. Let them know the possible times and ask for feedback on what would work for them. Be ready to answer questions. Explain the guidelines and be flexible.
  5. Think about funding for food (and space if that’s a cost for you). Your school or company may be a good source of sponsorships.
  6. Seek out participants who can help you with organizational and practical tasks.
  7. Create a mailing/discussion list for all the potential participants
  8. Discuss and determine how documentation will be done
  9. Discuss and determine what additional publicity there will be around the event, if any.

TWO WEEKS BEFORE

  1. Confirm the space
  2. Request a tools and materials list from each participant
  3. Request project ideas from all participants. These could be posted where the whole group can see them.
  4. Arrange a planning meeting with your fellow coordinators
  5. Set a firm schedule including start time, daily group meetings, end times.
  6. Determine who will open and close the space every day
  7. Create documentation site (blog, web site or whatever else you’ve selected)
  8. Send out schedule announcements and current participants list

ONE WEEK BEFORE

  1. Make arrangements for the tools and materials people requested
  2. Ensure that anyone using questionable materials or techniques (fumes, fire, loud noise) has gotten permission from the space to do so beforehand.
  3. Confirm that any funding you requested will indeed be available and ask how reimbursement will be handled
  4. Confirm that someone will open and close the space each day, as well as which people will be be on hand if the space requires a responsible party to be present.
  5. Announce the documentation site
  6. Follow up on any publicity plans
  7. Hold a Q&A session to answer questions, share project ideas and wrap up any loose ends

DAY BEFORE

  1. Bring in all the equipment
  2. Set up the space with tables, chairs, lights, sewing machines, saws, whatever people might need.
  3. Send out a reminder with the schedule for the week.
  4. Get a good night’s sleep.

FIRST DAY

  1. Show up early to set up coffee and snacks
  2. Hold an enthusiastic meeting to kick off the event. Participants can introduce themselves, list off the project’s they are planning, solicit for potential group partners and cheer each other on.
  3. Administrative announcements should cover opening and closing times, any rules of the space, equipment and safety information, introduction of any staff or helpers, daily meeting times, documentation information, and finally anything motivational about stretching your abilities and having a great time.

EVERY DAY

  1. Consider having morning coffee and snacks available each day to encourage early arrival
  2. Consider having a meeting partway through each day so everyone can share what they did the day before and any administrative business can be taken care of. This is another good time to serve food of some sort, it will help attendance.
  3. Make documentation visible to encourage people to see and share their work.
  4. Music can be nice if people are amendable.

LAST DAY

  1. Schedule a wrap-up time, possibly a little earlier than you’ve been shutting down on previous days.
  2. Hold a final meeting at the end of the event to congratulate everyone, ensure that they are on hand to help close down, and announce where the party’s at.
  3. Clean the space, ideally making it better than you found it
  4. Return all equipment
  5. Head out to a celebratory event.

WRAP UP

  1. Finish all returns
  2. Thank everyone who sponsored or gave space to the event
  3. Schedule a post-mortem meeting where everyone can give feedback. This should be no more than one week after the event so issues and ideas are fresh in people’s minds.
  4. Plan the next one, and send suggestions for improving this document.

Some thoughts from Steven after co-coordinating a 1-in-1 event:

  1. coordinating is easier when everyone is in one place, even if that place might be downstairs in the basement
  2. coordinating is easier if there isn’t other stuff going on in the space – basement was nice because everyone was there for the 4-in-4 and only for the 4-in-4. this might also be the case on the floor during breaks, but it was more confusing last week with classes and etc in session
  3. shorter isn’t necessarily easier to coordinate.. most of the work of coordinating is at the start and the end, and the 1-in-1 was ending as soon as it was done starting

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