The SMARTEN Project: Building Digital Readiness for European Water-Related Higher Education

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The SMARTEN Project is an exercise in preparedness in the truest sense of the word. Its overall goal is to build the digital readiness of water-related European higher education and lifelong learning. 

The outputs of the project aren’t the only elements designed with preparedness in view. Its delivery was crafted with agility in mind. The project has been shaped to achieve its objectives while building the responsiveness, adaptability and flexibility of educational activities against external disruptors such as the COVID-19 crisis.

It’s fair to say that SMARTEN walks the preparedness talk.

SMARTEN is a creative acronym for an equally creative project that was publicly launched on 18  March 2021 during Water Knowledge Europe. It stands for Serious gaMes for digitAl Readiness of waTer EducatioN. It focuses on innovative practices based on serious games in education, as it explores the subject of water. The project aligns with the European goals on environment and climate. 

In order to deliver its goal, the project strives to support and enhance digital transitions in the fast-evolving education and water resource sectors. This is done to better adapt to pandemic and post-pandemic working conditions. 

Those benefiting from SMARTEN represent quite a range of people. From students of water-related programs, and young water professionals, through to water educators in academia and industry, water society and the European community at large.

One of the intellectual outputs of SMARTEN is the Augmented Collaboration Toolkit. Naomi Timmer, the Director of H2O People, led its design. 

“GroupMap was included in the Toolkit as it supports the experience of both the facilitator and the participant,” offered Naomi. 

“From the facilitator’s perspective, which is where I am most involved, the interface is simple and user friendly. This makes it accessible and easy to navigate.”

“The available templates are versatile and easy to customize. They are handy and can help to plan workshops as well as engage participants. The reporting process is performed automatically and communicates all phases of the workshop.”

“Using GroupMap is a real-time process that starts from an individual brainstorming to a group discussion to a final collective decision. This pathway promotes the bottom-up approach for decision making that is quite relevant to the pressing environmental and climate issues.” 

From a user’s perspective, GroupMap leverages the participants’ voices and uses them as a base to move forward with the discussion to reach a final vision or decision. It is fun and interesting to see the different views converge or diverge in the grouping phase. GroupMap is a dynamic and interactive environment that maintains the participant’s attention.”

“All of these features encouraged us to incorporate GroupMap in the SMARTEN Augmented Collaboration Toolkit.”

In June 2021 Naomi led the online event Human Capital: Collaboration in Digital Space. The digital workshop showcased the range of collaborative tools included in the toolkit including GroupMap which was used in support of an exploration of the transformations needed in the water sector.

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“The workshop was rich in interactive features,’ shared Naomi. “It leveraged digital collaboration for a more engaging, seamless experience to match live events.” 

“It promoted the SMARTEN Augmented Collaboration Toolkit. Different digital tools were used to discuss topics related to online facilitation: Water-Food-Energy Nexus, and Deep Democracy.” 

“GroupMap was used as a tool to facilitate collaborative brainstorming on leadership in the water sector which revealed the different needs and perspectives on this concept.”

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Written with the kind support of Naomi Timmer – H2O People

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Supporting ComTeam Group Foster Success Through Change

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When it comes to online collaboration, having a tool that caters to the needs of both participants and facilitators can be a challenge. Add in higher level requirements such as security, privacy and reliability, finding the right tool can be even harder. ComTeam needed to run virtual strategy workshops and to facilitate online meetings with their team. So they started a search to find a tool that was structured, easy to use and secure. They found GroupMap.

It was a recommendation from a colleague that convinced the ComTeam Group’s Philipp Zeikat to try GroupMap.

As a user of the online collaboration tool, Philipp’s colleague had firsthand experience of the benefits GroupMap offered. They had seen how little time was needed during a workshop for participants to familiarize themselves with the tool. They had also accessed and used the existing template library, and noted GroupMap’s templates offered a near-perfect match with the topics they were facilitating for clients.

With that in mind, Philipp signed up for a free trial to explore what more the tool had to offer. The rest, as they say, is history.

Neither Philipp nor ComTeam are strangers to the facilitation space. Far from it!  ComTeam Group is a consulting and training company with subsidiaries in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Great Britain. They offer an impressive range of tailor made services designed to deliver effective change at both the corporate and personal levels. With its origins in facilitation and personal development, ComTeam are experts in leadership, change management, and cultural development. Their coaching and facilitation services include communication, decision-making processes, change projects, conflict resolution, leadership development and personal growth. They cater to a wide range of clients from public organizations through to leading medium-sized and large commercial enterprises.

Before GroupMap

Prior to their adoption of GroupMap, ComTeam had identified opportunities for change with regard to their virtual sessions.

“For notetaking and brainstorming during online-workshops we were using shared documents, mostly based on the Office-365 suite,” offered Philipp. “So we wanted a tool that would ensure a transparent and up-to-date distribution of information during, and after the workshops. We also wanted to avoid the linear and versioned distribution of documents that can happen with email.”

Another requirement was an easy and cohesive way of creating separate workspaces for recurring events.

“The most important factor,” noted Philipp. “was the tool’s usability for both creators and clients. We didn’t want to have to spend a lot of time training participants on the ins and outs of the tool. We also wanted our creators to have a well-structured pool of resources they could use along with access control.”

GroupMap delivered on all of these requirements. Starting with virtual sessions and growing to include hybrid contexts, it’s the online brainstorming and collaboration tool ComTeam uses regularly to support client consultations and training, as well as internal strategy and brainstorming sessions.

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A highly intuitive tool

Compared to other online collaborative tools, Philipp notes that GroupMap offers a highly intuitive user interface. This is great news for facilitators who, with only seconds of explaining, are able to induct their clients as to how to use the tool. This means the focus of the session remains on the topic at hand.

Indeed, ComTeam’s facilitators adapted quickly to GroupMap. Used predominantly to support clients’ brainstorming sessions, when it came to using other features (such as grouping and voting) learning how to do so was quick and easy.

Delivering workshop value

ComTeam’s online client workshops address a variety of issues. What they have in common is they all require a tool that supports the creation of solutions to complex problems.

ComTeam curates a workspace of templates designed to foster high-level conversations around strategy. Using those templates, facilitators guide clients through brainstorming and small group collaborative sessions to explore constructive approaches to individual cases.

GroupMap is also used to support the delivery of ComTeam’s internal strategy meetings. DIfferent features such as color coding and voting features  are used to support the different aims of the meeting.

Delivering client value

Both ComTeam and their clients have benefited from GroupMap’s reporting feature.

“This is especially useful,” said Philipp. “It gives our clients a record of exactly what they agreed on; what they said they would do, without us needing to compile an extra document. The proceedings of the workshop are generated by the workshop!”

Written with the kind collaboration of Philipp Zeikat, Project Manager ComTeam.

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GroupMap: A Collaboration Tool Supporting Community Leaders To Continually Succeed

100% Clear on “What’s Next?” 

Andrew Huffer

Andrew Huffer is a Principal Consultant for Andrew Huffer and Associates – a facilitation, community engagement and team development specialists focused on helping team members to be 100% clear on ‘what’s next?’ 

Andrew’s main role is in program design and development and facilitation. As a recent GroupMap Certified Digital Facilitator and user for over five years, Andrew has used the online brainstorming and collaboration platform with up to 35 clients, to deliver 100+ workshops. 

Recently, Andrew was engaged to facilitate the Community Leaders – Stepping Up and Stepping Out Forum. The workshop aimed to challenge participants to consider how they can step out and step up to support their communities once their leadership programs finished. 

The forum was hosted by the Victorian Regional Community Leadership Program (now known as Regional Leadership Australia).

The intended outcomes of the forum were:

  • Gain exposure to strategic thinking beyond the group’s own localities
  • Use insights to broaden the group’s leadership capacity
  • Expand the organisation’s leadership support base

A Collaboration Tool for Face-to-Face and Digital Facilitation

Over 80 people attended the forum which was held concurrently with participants in Melbourne and Canberra (where a program group was visiting Parliament House). Andrew and his team used a participative approach for the forum to:

  • Share insights from experienced leaders
  • Understand the potential impacts of regional population growth
  • Consider future opportunities for regional leadership

Over his many years and experiences in delivering and facilitating workshops, Andrew found that a face to face setting presented a challenge of laboriously tracking and managing participant input using paper-based tools (flipcharts, templates, post-it notes etc.) 

Documenting reports was time-consuming and arduous.

Meanwhile, in the online space, Andrew discovered there were a few tools available, but they were mostly focused on project management or very ‘clunky’ to use from a design and participant perspective.

 

GroupMap: Supporting Facilitation 

Five years ago, in 2015, Andrew was introduced to GroupMap by a colleague who was really into tech-based approaches to facilitation. 

Andrew’s overarching goals for an online collaboration tool included:

  • Easy to use and navigate for participants and facilitators alike;
  • Template-based;
  • Suited and enhanced facilitation digitally, face to face or in a hybrid situation. 

GroupMap Collaboration Tool in Action

Collaboration Tool for Better Engagement 

Throughout his years of using GroupMap, Andrew indicated that he has seen many benefits the online collaboration tool brings to achieving outcomes for facilitated workshops, conferences and meetings. 

At the recent Community Leaders – Stepping Up and Stepping Out Forum, Andrew designed the workshop so that participants worked in breakout groups in both locations to undertake a Wave Analysis to identify:

  • New Edges Emerging Trends, and,
  • Established Norms and Dying Practices in regards to regional leadership. 

Participants then identified a ‘big idea’ that they wanted to implement and used the action planning feature of GroupMap to outline how they will make it happen.

“With participants being split across two locations and most using Group Map for the first time, it was important that the workshop process and steps were clear,” said Andrew.

“Being able to outline the objectives for each workshop step within GroupMap templates made this easier. Group Map is also fairly intuitive and simple to follow for most users.” 

“For displaying results and reporting it’s easy to zoom in and highlight different elements of each map. The templates are fantastic for design purposes.”

Templates

Loved by facilitators and participants

Over the years of using GroupMap, Andrew has noticed that his participants loved how easy it is to use. This often led to participants seeing the potential for using GroupMap to further collaborate more meaningfully with their own teams and community stakeholders.

From his recent Community Leaders – Stepping Up and Stepping Out Forum, Andrew noted how GroupMap also provided an effective tool to enable meaningful participation amongst participants concurrently across multiple locations. 

“My client was very happy that we had a robust tool to enable this to happen. With the participants doing the documentation, I could focus my efforts on checking in with the groups to help them where needed. 

“Being able to see outputs generated in real time is a great way to check in to see if groups are ‘on track’.”

The forum resulted in several initiatives identified for participants to implement that will benefit regional communities as part of their leadership programs.

 

Andrew’s GroupMap and digital facilitation tips!

Andrew has also kindly shared his digital facilitation and GroupMap use tips that focus on making sure that any virtual workshops, activities and meetings are even more engaging and effective than ever. 

 

Digital facilitation tips

 

Andrew has created a series of videos focused on sharing his online facilitation learnings. In this video titled: “One percenters to keep your participants engaged,” Andrew shares top tips to help keep your participants engaged and productive throughout your online workshop. 

Some of the best practices we love:

  1. Make more effort to keep your events engaging. 
  2. Deliver in shorter blocks of time than you would face to face
  3. Think of ways to incorporate non-screen based activities
  4. Focus on the core elements of (1)  tapping into the diversity of the group (2) helping it
  5. to do its thinking and (3) deliver outcomes

 

GroupMap: Collaboration tool tips and tricks

In his five years of using GroupMap, Andrew has certainly picked up a lot of learnings and tips and tricks for using our online collaboration platform. 

Here’s some he has shared:

  1. Design your Group Maps to match the purpose and outcomes that you’re trying to achieve (not the other way around). There’s plenty of templates and design options in Group Map to enable this. 
  2. It’s also best to keep processes reasonably simple when you start or for people new to the online space. Ideally it’s great to have scribes or co-facilitators working with breakout groups to help them stay on track where needed.

 

Try GroupMap for your next engaging meetings, workshops or events!

Thank you Andrew for sharing your GroupMap journey, story and learnings with us. If you’re a facilitator like Andrew or belong in a team who are looking for a more engaging and effective way of brainstorming, try GroupMap today, FREE for 14 days.

Trebuchet Group Grows in Strength with the Right Online Brainstorm Tool

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Providing clarity and confidence for leaders 

Trebuchet Group clients

Trebuchet Group is a purpose-based and management consulting firm with a head office in Colorado. 

Since 2002, hundreds of organizations and executive leaders have worked with Trebuchet Group to help their companies and teams get lasting results. 

Chris Hutchinson is the CEO of Trebuchet Group and plays an important role as a Facilitator, Meeting Designer, and Organizational Supporter. 

“We enable connection between team members so they can work together well. We help people dream within a framework exploring what they collectively want to achieve, avoid, and preserve in the future,” said Chris. 

Trebuchet Group provides the outcomes that their clients need by helping them explore ideas, then get aligned and make decisions. 

“We support teams in creating strategic plans to chart their business path forward into uncertain territory.”

 

From Face-to-Face to Online Meetings 

Trebuchet Group’s proven method of working together in person was challenged when COVID-19 hit and meeting face-to-face was not an option. Most of the work they did with other teams was  dependent on being able to be in the same room with groups of people. 

“One specific challenge we encountered this year was how to continue to support a project with the City of Fort Collins. We needed to gather where a community-based committee to advise the City on  on how and where they could provide services for people experiencing homelessness.” 

“This project was a collaboration with over 40 leaders from nonprofits, clergy, public health, business leaders, real estate professionals, human services and police in Northern Colorado. We had been meeting in person for six months before COVID-19 hit.”

Due to COVID-19, Trebuchet Group paused the group meetings for three months, but it quickly became obvious the group would not be able to return to in-person meetings in the near future. 

 

The Search for the right Online Brainstorm Tool

The Trebuchet Group team knew they needed to find a way for people to work together effectively online.   They  looked at several online brainstorm tools suggested by colleagues and through their own research before choosing GroupMap.

“We asked others and did online research to find tools that could help us in our work with teams. One article that was very helpful was a blog by Lucid Meetings.”

“We liked the combination of accessibility, functionality and reasonable price of GroupMap. We also loved how GroupMap mirrored many of the same processes and tools we use with groups in person. In many cases, the tool made the input and voting process quicker than in person.”

GroupMap Online Brainstorm Tool in Lucid Meetings

Other features Trebuchet Group like about their new online brainstorm tool include:

  • Standard templates that are customizable – “We have starting standard templates which we can customize to fit each engagement – even making changes in the middle of a meeting as needs arise. We also appreciate the ability to create our own templates.”

  • Ability to choose level of anonymity“This online brainstorm tool also gave us the ability to have anonymous inputs or not allowing for clients to share their inputs without worrying about their comments being attributed to them”

  • Downloadable reports“Finally, GroupMap makes our reporting easier – no more deciphering handwriting and keeping track of sticky notes after the meeting.”

 

Working with GroupMap 

“As an online brainstorm tool, GroupMap gave us the ability to help groups explore ideas and get aligned even while working remotely.”

Trebuchet Group usesumany capabilities in GroupMap – brainstorming, clumping ideas, and voting capabilities – to virtually engage with their clients. 

Their work continued online through the combined use of Zoom, GroupMap and Drive, bringing their community members back for the important Fort Collins project. 

The team explained their remote meetings and workshops process:

  1. Start with an icebreaker: To help participants get comfortable with the GroupMap tool, we created an initial icebreaker map where people could enter inputs and then vote on them.

  2. Breakout rooms for brainstorming: The team used small group breakouts where participants entered brainstormed ideas into a shared map. When everyone came back together into a large group, people asked questions about ideas from other groups, and then multi-voted on the ideas they liked best.

  3. Engage to discover the best idea:  Comments or thumbs up were used as a way for participants to add to or indicate support for an idea. The impact-effort maps were also helpful for people to assess which ideas would be most valuable to start with.

  4. Online voting functionality: Individual voting solved a problem the team faces in person where they mainly hear from the most vocal participants — using GroupMap voting allowed Trebuchet to aggregate the wisdom of all participants.

  5. Retrospectives: Trebuchet Group also used the maps at the end of meetings to capture what people would like to continue, start, and stop for the future meetings.

Impact Effort online brainstorm tool
Example of an Impact Effort Map

 

“Using GroupMap supported our facilitation of community group working together in spite of the limitation of the pandemic.”

“We were able to share ideas and align around what is most important for our recommendation for services for people experiencing homelessness in Fort Collins.”

 

Online Brainstorm Tool Gets Tick of Approval 

Trebuchet Group Goes Online

 

“Our clients love GroupMap. They are asking for help in using the online brainstorm tool with their own teams.” 

Trebuchet Group outlined some of the reasons behind their clients’ love for GroupMap:

  • Easy to use: “There is a small learning curve, and once people get up to speed the interactivity is vital.”

  • Promotes equity: “We also found introverts felt more comfortable sharing without the pressure of needing to interrupt or call attention to be heard.”

  • Creates a safe space: Partial anonymity helped at least one organization break through groupthink and allow people to be truly honest about difficult and sensitive issues.

“This tool supported our business success in the 2020 shift. Without it, we’d be in a very different place. As a result, our clients continue to experience success and high levels of engagement, despite working remotely.”

“We’ve heard from multiple clients that the meetings we use this tool in, ‘are the most productive online meetings this team has ever had.’” 

 

Want to try GroupMap as an online brainstorm tool? 

Schedule a demo with a GroupMap team member at a day and time that suits you best or have a go of our easy to use, supported online brainstorm tool for FREE for 14 days today.