With our 2016 calendar, we have started a ‘Go Green’ policy, providing learning materials digitally instead of a hard copy. New technologies have made this policy change possible. Our initial experience with the new policy has been quite promising.
How did it all start?
Ivana: At the CEF, I have been supporting the preparation of workshops and seminars for more than a decade. For a long time, it was really time consuming to print huge amounts of materials for the participants. At the same time, many participants wanted to receive some materials earlier to better prepare for their learning journeys. So, I often dreamed about how nice it would be to make a small “revolution” in this area of work: to make everything more flexible and implement the idea of “Going green”. I thought that it would save us time and money, and help protect the environment. The idea emerged further, and more and more colleagues started to share my dream.
Necessity is the mother of invention, so it needed the right time for implementation. Modern technologies allowed us to find a user-friendly and practicable solution. Besides, we felt that our training participants and experts also got ready to use new technical solutions. At the same time, we reorganized the way we worked internally, which provided the momentum to try out new solutions. To this end, good technical support from our IT team was essential, as well as brainstorming with other colleagues. Finally, we agreed to start implementing our “Go Green” dream with the CEF 2016 calendar. Now, our new green policy allows participants to download materials prior to the event or at any later time they choose.
The first opportunity to pilot our “Go Green” policy was at this year’s first learning initiative, an IMF/CEF seminar on Strengthening Fiscal Transparency and Fiscal Risk Management, delivered on January 18–20.
We informed the participants in our welcome e-mail (a week ahead of the event) that we would apply a new policy. We provided them access to a cloud folder where we stored files once they became available. For the pilot we used a Dropbox folder. In the meantime, we launched our own cloud, the CEF Box, which our IT team set up with the aim of ensuring optimal user-friendliness, safety and accessibility.
The initial materials uploaded to the cloud folder included the latest agenda of the event and the list of participants, a map of Ljubljana, and some background reading. We asked the seminar’s faculty members to send us their presentations and background materials as soon as possible, preferably a few working days before the event, and then uploaded the materials (after a quick layout/completeness check) directly to the cloud (usually as PDF-prints, two slides per page).
In the welcome e-mail, we also suggested the participants to check the cloud folder once more just before leaving office, to access the latest versions available, so that they could take along hard copies of their own preference (or none at all). At the seminar’s introductory session, we reassured participants that they would receive all (final versions of) learning materials digitally. In the thank-you e-mail after the event, we provided the same link to the cloud folder, which by then included all final versions of the presentations, background reading materials, group exercises, photos, etc.
In class, we only gave participants a notepad, a pen, a print-out of the agenda, and the list of participants. One direct advantage of the new policy was that we had more space in the classroom, as we could go ahead with fewer tables than usual.
How did it work out?
Robert: Generally, participants seemed fine with the new policy. Without printed materials in their hands, it appeared that they were even more focused on the presentations made. Less expectedly, I received before the event some concerns on the policy from the experts involved. At first, they were uncomfortable with the idea of participants having a chance to access materials ahead of the event, as this might ‘potentially’ preset their minds when studying only short bullet points. I listened well, and suggested that a voluntary pre-study of presentations might bring more advantages by already activating existing knowledge, and encouraging participants to come up with questions and comments for the time a presentation is made. I also ensured the experts that we update the materials in the cloud whenever changes are made.
It turned out that going digital led to much more updating of materials during event delivery than at typical paper-based events. I suppose the reason was that experts prefer to have as little deviations between the hard copies in participants’ hands and their in-class presentation on the screen. The no-paper policy gave our experts more flexibility to still adjust their presentations to participants’ feedback throughout the seminar (e.g. after daily evaluations). I also got the impression that the increased exchange with experts regarding materials was beneficial for facilitating the event as such. As a result of such increased exchange (and having the cloud folder) they suggested more additional interesting reference materials that could be added to the cloud.
How does it work for you?
With the above in mind, we can definitely recommend trying such a green policy at your organizations. In case you have already, please share your experience with us. Let us know about the advantages or concerns that you have come across, and any other good practices of going green.