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Suggestions for running a SICSS partner location

Outreach

The best way to have a great partner location is to have great participants.

  • Spread the word not just through personnel networks but also through public channels.
  • Make an extra effort to reach groups that many be under-represented in your applicant pool.
  • During the outreach period, you will receive questions about eligibility and other issues. Make sure that someone is checking your partner’s locations email address.

Application review

Reviewing applications can be time-consuming, but it is extremely important.

  • Post your selection criteria in the call for applications.
  • Schedule 2 meetings for about 10 days after the deadline: a long meeting (about 3 hours) and a short meeting (30 minutes) the next day.
  • Have a process for evaluating the applications. Here’s the one we use. We individually read all applications and create a ranked list of participants we can support (e.g., a top 30). Then, we review each others lists. Generally, everyone in both of our top 30 lists is accepted, everyone that is in neither of our top 30 lists in not accepted, and we spend our time discussing people on one list but not the other. Often we think about how the people we select will complement each other. We are aware that we are creating a community not picking the "best" 30 individuals. There will invariably be a few cases where you will want to go back to the files and you can plan to discuss these cases in your short meeting on the next day.

On-boarding

The time before your participants is arrive is critical to making your program a success. Everything thing that can happen before they arrive saves time when you are all together.

  • You will need to collect a lot of information from your participants (e.g., dietary restrictions, t-shirt size, etc). Consider one big information request; we have a checklist in our post-mortem from 2019.
  • Make sure that your participants know that our TAs will support them as they work through the pre-arrival materials.
  • Be clear about your expectations. A common piece of feedback from participants in partner locations is that they were not prepared for the amount of coding that was going to happen.
  • Plan a pre-arrival dinner the night before the instruction begins. Bring nametags.

Week one

Your two main goals during week one should be building a community and resolving logistical problems that interfere with learning.

  • Use name tags and table tent name cards.
  • Organize activities that will build community (e.g., themed tables for lunch and dinner).
  • At the end of each day, run a keep-start-stop survey, and then the next day report back on what you heard, what changes you made, and what changes you are choosing not to make.
  • Take a few chances to set expectations for the participant-led group projects that are coming in week two.

Week two

During week two you should continue building community, resolving logistical problems, and you should help the groups work effectively.

  • Check in with each group to make sure they are moving forward.
  • If you have funds to provide micro-grants, have a clear application and distribution process.
  • Create a sign-up sheet where participants and teams can sign up to meet with you about their project or other topics.

Post-departure

Think of these two weeks as a beginning and not an end of the community that you’ve created.

  • Plan a closing dinner for the final evening.
  • Make sure that people have a way of staying in contact.
  • Make a plan to find out what happens from the participant-led group research projects.

We hope that these best practices are helpful, and please let us know how they can be improved. Most importantly, have fun at your partner location!