Passing the Torch: Transitioning Leadership of an Edcamp

By Kevin Jarrett, Billy Krakower, Christopher J. Nesi, Chrissy Romano-Arrabito, and Justin Schleider

Have you ever considered that after organizing the same Edcamp for many years that you might get to a point, whatever the reason, where you either don’t want to or can no longer be an organizer anymore? Those that do - maybe even you and/or some of your fellow organizers - might wonder what to do next. Surely, you want the event to continue … to thrive … and you know that your edcamp needs new leaders, fresh perspectives and innovative ideas. Well, let us tell you what we have learned while transitioning the leadership team of Edcamp New Jersey (EdCampNJ), one of the biggest edcamps in the country.

In 2016, the EdCampNJ leadership team arrived at the exact juncture described above. It was time to change things up and pass the torch to a new group of leaders. At the end of the summer, an e-mail was sent out to the organizing team to see if anyone wanted to take over as the lead organizer(s). The current leadership team was facing a variety of life changes (all positive) and were unable to commit the required amount of time and effort needed going forward. Two individuals immediately expressed interest in taking on a more prominent leadership role.

The new leadership team’s first action was immediately sending out a Google Form to the current organizers asking who wanted to continue to be a part of the organizing effort. Several of the original event founders decided it was time to move on.  This allowed the new lead organizers to bring in new people who had attended the event in the past and wanted to become more active in planning and running the edcamp. A few of the original organizers remained as active as they could in the role ‘special advisor’ and these veterans were available to answer questions and offer advice based on experience and past practices, but, quite honestly, took a “backseat” to much of the planning. This allowed the event to take on renewed life with an infusion of ideas and energy.

Almost overnight the planning for EdcampNJ 2016 took off. A smooth transition had taken place, paving the way for new ideas about how to make EdcampNJ 2016 the best one yet!

Here are some of our takeaways:

  • We made sure the ‘old’ team and ‘new’ team maintained clear lines of communication. We had open conversations sharing as much information as possible - communication was essential! We primarily used Voxer with a couple of Google Hangouts.
  • We did not switch over everyone at once. A few “seasoned” organizers remained active on the planning team.
  • One of the previous lead organizers acted as a coach/mentor to the new lead organizers.
  • We established a small core leadership team to make final decisions as not to have to wade through the opinions of all organizers (comprised of three people with a previous organizer as a special advisor).
  • We recruited a group of passionate educators with a fresh perspective and energy to support the leadership team.
  • We delegated responsibilities to the organizing team - three people cannot and should not do everything! We trusted our people.
  • We allowed the new team to spread their wings.

Here are some of the innovations that were implemented for Edcamp NJ 2016 that made our event the best it could be:

  • EdcampNJ began with a big prize give away to build energy in the room and for the event. We gave away a brand new, fully charged and ready to go Samsung Chromebook.
  • Kept opening remarks simple and the day started quicker.
  • Created a Prize Patrol to distribute prizes throughout the day instead of waiting until the end of the event. The PP gave something away during each session of EdcampNJ.
  • We cut costs by eliminating lunch and making this event a half-day. The first session began at 8:50 AM and our last session ended at 12:35PM.
  • We built the first two sessions of the session board and brought everyone back for ‘Half-Time’ and then built the PM sessions. This allowed for those who arrived late to get a chance to facilitate a session. It also gave first time edcampers the opportunity to see what an edcamp is all about which enticed some to put their name on the session board to take a more active role in edcampNJ.

By not over complicating the need for change the transition of the EdCampNJ leadership team was a smooth and successful one. Our change was built on true teamwork, communication and collaboration. Our best advice to you is to identify people who have the ideas, energy and quite frankly, are willing to dedicate a lot of time to a worthy cause for educators and are passionate about professional learning and growth.

Please feel free to contact us:

Billy - @wkrakower

Chris - @mrnesi

Chrissy - @TheConnectedEdu

Justin - @SchleiderJustin

Kevin - @KJarrett