CoLAB Planning Series® was invented by Bess de Farber, certified professional facilitator and the UF Libraries’ grants manager, in 2002. CoLAB processes have been facilitated in groups ranging from 20 to 120 people and have produced extremely positive results. Over 1,500 participants representing 700 organizations have participated in sessions sponsored by libraries, library associations, universities, United Ways and Community Foundations throughout Florida; Tucson, Arizona; and Baltimore, Maryland.
Focusing on existing assets is one of the most effective ways to inspire creativity (Fritz, 1998). Moreover, innovation thrives in open environments where each person feels comfortable sharing his/her ideas. By providing a space that encourages open communication, contribution and creativity, participants will make connections that spark new possibilities, perspectives and ideas. Whether it’s a project, approach, or solution to a problem, participants will find inspiration from conversations with “strangers.”
In a university setting, the CoLAB process can help students find partners for research or other projects, organizations to join or create, and/or faculty members who can mentor for navigating the academic system. Similarly, faculty and researchers can meet new colleagues, graduate and/or undergraduate students. The variety of assets available through collaborative teams are truly endless.
The CoLAB Planning Series® processes offer methods for achieving a myriad of results. It has been used to solve community problems such as literacy and HIV infection in youth. It effectively connects “strangers” at a conference, and it can develop long-term community alliances among nonprofit leaders and program designers.
For example, at the University of Arizona (UA), this process was used to connect NGOs and government agency personnel working in the Sonoran Desert, many of whom had never met and were clueless about each other’s research and advocacy programs. The Sonoran Desert Knowledge Exchange was born.
At the start of each workshop, each participant will prepare a profile with answers to the following questions:
- What is your area of study or research interest and why are you passionate about this work?
- What are your strongest skills?
- What groups or networks are you involved in or support?
- What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
After an introduction to the theories of collaborative and creative processes, participants will share profiles to spark 3- minute conversations. Reading participants’ profiles results in highly-focused conversations that often reveal hidden assets and commonalities of research, project and/or academic goals. Rather than focusing on what students, faculty and researchers lack in terms of access and resources, the CoLAB process reveals extant strengths and skills. Participants will meet an average of 12 “strangers” in each session.