Foundathon; a peer-to-peer, mutually supportive problem-solving session.
A Foundathon (the name is derived from the term hackathon) is a facilitated meeting of a group of company founders who meet, usually regularly, to address a challenges faced by members of the group as they arise. The idea is to use the group’s information, knowledge and wisdom to help one of its number to work out the best way to solve a problem before going to more costly and time-consuming resources.
The idea and method were developed in 2013 by Simon O’Keeffe while he was programme manager of the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers start-up acceleration programme at Limerick Institute of Technology in Ireland.
Method and Rules
A Foundathon can address just one problem or a series of problems put forward by different people.
The method is as follows:
- The Facilitator brings the group to order, explains the method and the rules and leads a creativity warm-up exercise.
- The Founder who wants help with a problem briefly sets out the background and states the problem. The Facilitator writes up the statement on a whiteboard.
- The Founder’s peers (contributors) then have a set time to set out their ideas, which the Facilitator records in short form on a whiteboard.
- When time is up, the Founder says which idea or ideas have helped the most and acknowledges the contributors. The Founder then analyses the contributions (usually by grouping them and working further with one of the groups of ideas). The Founder sums up by saying what his or her Next Steps are.
- The Facilitator brings the session to a close, acknowledging the effort the Founder has put into framing the problem, acknowledging the Contributors’ effort and the quality of the Next Steps the Founder has set out.
The rules are similar to those for brainstorming:
- The Founder (and everyone else) is to not make comments or judgements on the ideas put forward or discuss them in any way until the appointed time.
- Every idea is to be recorded in the same way, using the Contributor’s words.
- The Facilitator is to encourage all of the Founder’s peers to contribute and to encourage them to put out even the ‘wild’ or ‘mad’ ideas that they have.
- At this stage, the goal is to produce as many ideas to solve the problem as possible. The Facilitator is to force the pace, to get the group to think quickly and spark off each other’s ideas.
- The ideas become the ‘property’ of the Founder and the Founder must show due gratitude and when the time comes contribute as generously to solving the problems of fellow Founders.
The benefit of using a Foundathon is that it rewards creativity and generosity and because it operates on the principle of mutuality, makes the group stronger and more effective as well as delivering good problem-solving results.