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You’re probably familiar with Startup Weekend Education if you are reading this blog.  If not the education version, then you may be aware of the nature of a general Startup Weekend! The event is a mini conference bringing together individuals and organizations to accelerate the growth of new solutions and principals, and to create new connections between educators, designers, developers, entrepreneurs and public in general who may not otherwise meet each other.

This may not seem like a radical or new idea. We have all been to industry conferences that have a long and drawn out schedule and the occasionally interesting lecture or presentation in the midst of a day’s worth of lectures on similar topics.  Then the networking is done at the bars and at the hotels where the attendees reside for their time after the conference.

This is not the case with the Startup Weekend Education.  The Startup Weekend Education is a real-time problem solving experience.  Rather than listening passively to research or findings that may tangentially connect to your own work, participants in the SWEDU choose their teams, which actively compete to create a business plan and model for new educational solutions.

The limited amount of time and the obviously high calibre of competition creates a buzz of energy that no other conference or event can lay claim to.  And after the prizes are awarded, even if you have participated on a team that didn’t make the podium, you leave with something concrete.  You leave with the real life connections that you can only build by actively working with other professionals.  You come away energized.  Your personal and professional networks are expanded as well as your mind.

This is all made possible by the team of organizers of whom I feel very privileged to be part.  The energy and inventiveness that we employ to put this event together is as much of challenge as the event itself is for its participants.  The adrenaline we feel in securing venue and speakers is like the rush of meeting your new team of strange faces for the first time.  The pressure of the event for the teams working on the development of their new projects is the same pressure that we the organizers feel as we work to ensure everyone is well equipped to succeed.

And that release of joy and satisfaction that the participants feel after they have completed their proposals, the joy of new friendships and connections, and the feeling of a job well done, only comes over us as we witness the smiling faces of new professional friendships heading to the pub, not to escape the tedium of a conference, but to celebrate its effectiveness.  This is why I come back every year. To be a part of an event I believe in, that inspires me, and that I see inspires others also, so that we all can make the future of education one that is driven by dedication and love.

Katalina Aguilar