Amy Potthast | Instructional Coach & Designer | Learning Design Studios

To design a professional development training program for Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy, I wanted to follow the outcomes-based instructional design practice of convening subject matter experts as a starting point.

In-person affinity groups

Ideally, the designer brings together subject matter experts who represent diverse perspectives on the training topic. The experts brainstorm, share, and group answers to the question, “What do participants need to be able to do, out in the real world, as a result of the training program?”

Each expert writes their responses on sticky notes, introduces each note to the group, and post it to a wall. After the experts have all spoken, they come together to compare and group their responses.

Throughout, the designer challenges the experts to focus on action statements — and to avoid verbs such as “to understand” and “to know.”

From each cluster, the designer and experts wordsmith a first draft of an outcome statement, something like: “As a grant maker, evaluate the financial workings of current and prospective grantees.”

Affinity groups at a distance

Because the EPIP subject matter experts lived across the country from each other, I had to sort out a different way to run the affinity process.

George Reese, of Gateway to College National Network, and my instructional design professor at Oregon State, consulted with me about the process (even though our term together had ended). He recommended connecting with SMEs one-on-one or in small groups over the phone, rather than try to convene them as a group.

So this is what I tried. Each chat was about an hour long. I took notes on Google docs and shared them  with each expert afterwards, asking them to correct or clarify.

Once the experts had confirmed the notes, Russ and I grouped them, and I drafted outcomes — referring to the rubric from class as a job aid. I also looked at survey results from EPIP members, where they reflected on what kind of professional development they wanted.

Then I met with Russ Finkelstein, my partner on this project, to look through the outcomes and make sure they adequately reflected the notes. Russ is a coach at EPIP and my former boss at Idealist.

Once we finalized the outcome statements, we brainstormed a list of workshops that might be appropriate in the training program.

Next steps

Right now, EPIP staff and chapter leaders are looking at our long list of workshop topics to decide on 6-8 they’d like us to create. We’ll work on the first four of this this spring — an onland and online version of each.


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