Confession session

1.1   Description


Science Cafés have become pretty boring. The world needs exciting new dialogue formats. Here come the Finns with Confession Session. It is as simple as this: Learn from your mistakes!

 

1.2   Objective


The idea of the confession session is pretty simple: What if instead of listing successes, you reveal your worst mistakes? When we share learning from mistakes – our own and those of others – this honest peer learning boosts professional identity and bridges generations. Mistakes are not a problem but learning from them can be. We have organised a number of confession sessions for science journalists, but it can be done with scientists also. That requires you to have an audience of scientists of course.


 

1.3   Structure


General Structure: Single Event

In the original setup a throwable microphone was part of the concept, which is a blue cube made of foam. “Very good for confessing, because the soft fabric absorbs your sweat (and tears) and you can squeeze it, if that helps to calm your nerves down”.
Like with all great inventions, the idea is simple. The session creates an atmosphere that allows attendees to share their mistakes. This is a bit therapeutic, relieves the confessing person and, above all, the session offers a unique learning opportunity for all participants. This helps to develop a community spirit and professional identity. These events bridge the gap between new researchers and seasoned scientists.

 

1.4   Duration



Main Event Duration: A few hours

Very little preparation is needed as the participants are the focus and they bring their stories.

2.1    Staff & Volunteers


Staff and volunteers are not needed for the specific event.

Volunteer Requirements: Core organising team only. A confession session can be organised by a single person. It is however advisable to have at least two to run the session and a few participants in the audience to start the storytelling.

 

2.2    Venue Hire


Venue: Indoor
Capacity: 20 – 100 people

Sessions are usually hosted indoors, but special outdoors events are possible. While a laboratory or other special setting is not required, scientists can be encouraged to bring props or little experiments to demonstrate their field of research. Make sure this complies with health and safety rules.

 

2.3    Partner Institutions


Partner Institutions: Not required

A confession session event may be part of a major conference or symposium, but it can also be run independently; there is no real need to team up with a partner institution. However, collaborations are encouraged as they can provide expert speakers as well as opportunities for unique events to engage new audiences — NGOs, universities, science centres and cultural events are key examples.

 

2.4    Budget


Yearly / Project Budget: 0 – 5000€


Confession events are normally not stand-alone activities but part of a series of events or major conferences. Therefore the costs depend on the other activities

Budget Point Details Event Cost
Personnel Fees The participants pay themselves 0€
Venue Hire This could be part of a major conference with scientists or journalists. It will not work as well as a stand alone event. 0–2000€
Marketing Design / printing of posters or buying advertising space in local papers / on social media 500–2000€
Materials

  • The venue should be able to cover any basic needs (chairs, tables, etc.)
  • Researchers can provide other materials, e.g. lab equipment needed for experiments
  • If special events are planned, extra funding needs to be sought for equipment, e.g. outdoor screens
0–1000€
Other
    Refreshments, if not provided through venue, could add an extra cost per event
0–1000€
Total 0–6000€

3.1   Target Audience


Target Audience: a professional group of science journalists or scientists. It may be a mixture with professional and lay people in the audience.

 

3.2   Marketing

Marketing should be performed for every event. A good technique to attract different audiences are collaborations with partner institutions. It is important to market the idea and description in order to attract the right audience where individuals will be prepared to tell their confession story.

 

3.3   Dialogic Strategy

The idea of the confession session is simple: What if instead of listing successes you reveal your worst mistakes? When we share learning from mistakes – our own and those of others – this honest peer learning boosts professional identity and bridges generations. Mistakes are not a problem but learning from them can be. To maximize the learning process, it is crucial to create a relaxed atmosphere.
In 2017, the confession session concept was experimented with at EXSITE 2017 in Porto, using a twist: The confessions were centered around the seven cardinal sins. At the European Conference for Science Journalists ECSJ 2017 in Copenhagen, the session was repeated with Mikko Myllykoski and his colleague Ulla Järvi in a similar fashion. Confessors were rewarded with bitter but tasty Finnish licorice. Some of these sessions attracted large audiences, one had an audience of a hundred people.

Mikko points out one important prerequisite for a successful confession session. It’s important to identify a few colleagues who are willing to join in and perform a confession. “If we can get started with some five solid and entertaining stories, the rest should be easy”, he assures.

For this purpose a soft, throwable microphone, the Catchbox) was used. The Catchbox is practical to make the participatory session dynamic, enjoyable, and therapeutic. To analyse the nature of any confessed mistake, we categorize them according to the so-called Seven Deadly, or cardinal, sins: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth. Whatever is confessed during the session remains behind in the workshop venue. But what we can say is that we heard confessions relating to each one of the seven categories of sin, and everybody in the room actively joined the process. The format of publicly sharing professional mistakes is both engaging and empowering.

4.1   Project Timeline

Time Activity
Months in advance
  • Venue hire and provisional setting of dates for the events
  • Contacting participants to confirm their availability
  • Poster design and Press release writing
Weeks in advance
  • Marketing: poster distribution, Facebook event
  • Meet with some “confessors” to chat about their presentation
On the day
  • Prepare audio equipment

 

4.2   Single Event Structure

Time Activity
30-60 mins
  • One or several short informal presentations
30-60 mins
  • Open up to the audience to share their confessions
60-90 mins
  • Refreshments with an optional interactive session

 

4.3   Personnel roles

Person Activity
Core Team
  • Arrive at venue an hour in advance to set up sound equipment
Audience story tellers
  • Some storytellers in the audience should be ready to tell their science confession story. There needs to be someone to break the ice.

 

4.4   Materials


In the original setup a throwable microphone was part of the concept, which is a blue cube made of foam. “Very good for confessing, because the soft fabric absorbs your sweat (and tears) and you can squeeze it, if that helps to calm your nerves down”.

The microphone is a fun gimmick, It gives some more dynamics to the event as it can be thrown and someone has to catch it but not really needed. A normal microphone can be used as long as it is not thrown.

 

4.5   Other Logistics


None


The confession session in Dunedin in 2018 was held in the very last time slot of the conference. In order to have a greater icebreaking impact on the attendees, it would have been better to arrange this kind of community and identity-building workshop at the very start of the conference. This is true of all similarly interactive methods. If the group is small and the use of a microphone is unnecessary, anything easily throwable can be used as a “talking stick”. It gives a structure to interactions and keeps the discussion lively. Also, providing rewards for the confessions adds to the appeal of the session. In the future, more professional events could be organized online. Virtual surroundings may make engagement and participation difficult. Developing interactive methods for science communications online in the digital age is a very pertinent challenge.

It might be that if you are at the early stage in your career this kind of personal ethical divulgence discussion is “a little too much”. You might not have enough professional tools to handle your own uncertainty or contingency. Critiques of individual mistakes may be especially harsh when it involves journalists. A confession session is a safe place to air and tackle professional dilemmas. Intergenerational and openhearted deliberation offers a supportive environment in which to share and understand ethical issues.

Whatever was confessed during the session should remain behind at the workshop venue

An informal evaluation technique would be preferable at these events, to maintain a casual atomashpere.

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Event Duration

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Location Capacity

Partner Institutions

Contributors


Cite this Activity


Goede, W., Degett, J., Lipponen, S., & Styles, C. (2020, October 21). Confession session. Retrieved from http://steamexperiments.com/activity/confession-session/

First published: October 21, 2020
Last modified: October 21, 2020