The Mayfield Project

“What If We” Flipped The Mayfield Project Process?

Robin Boyd would never have expected to see the large windows of his Walsh St House colonised by A3 sheets of paper crammed with over 150 ideas. But one suspects he’d have liked what was going on under those soaring, sloping ceilings.

Seventeen young educators, designers, policy makers, and architects from Singapore, New Zealand and Australia gathered in Melbourne for the Mayfield Project’s 2016 workshop. Bunkered down in the Walsh St House, they brainstormed themes in educational design to present to the 800 delegates at the exchange conference.

Previously the Mayfield workshop and presentation was the culmination of many months of research and collaboration. This year the process was flipped: the shorter duration and think-tank style workshop were used to help the young professionals develop their networks and make meaningful personal connections across disciplines.

The workshop, facilitated by No Tosh’s Hamish Curry and Tom Barrett, used a “hexagon thinking” technique. The group greenlit a series of ideas and phrases from the A3 sheets, and transferred them onto small paper hexagons. Then they broke into smaller groups to focus and consolidate these sometimes disparate ideas into a hexagonal hive of interconnected conceptual thought.

The result? Four themes for enacting positive change in educational design:

  • Culture of high trust – all disciplines should be involved in the discussion, take ownership and contribute personal insights;
  • Clear and constant conversation and collaboration – a clearer understanding of all involved (students, parents, teachers, designers, policy makers) and of each other’s words in order to create common goal of meaningful education for all;
  • Training and support of professionals – ongoing professional learning about how to redesign education and its environments in a changing world;
  • Community as a learning environment – how do we pop “bubbles” of schools and capitalise on the wealth of knowledge in the community, and integrate that into student’s learning and vice versa.

Presenting their findings to exchange, the Mayfielders encouraged delegates to create and share their own idea-hexagon for positive change, beginning with the phrase “what if we…?” The conference room buzzed with out of the box thinking and the Twitter hashtag #whatifwe flew thick and fast. As delegates pasted their paper hexagons onto communal boards for all to read, the collective hive of ideas grew, setting the perfect tone for exchange.

The Mayfielders pumped out a remarkable amount of work in four days (including a promotional video!) but their cohesion was even more striking for Mayfield Project Chair, Peter Moeck and Mayfield co-ordinators Lisa Horton and Lynette Julian. Not only did the group interact like they had known each other for years, they displayed genuine passion, intelligence and a wealth of innovative thinking.

Jia Xin, a designer from Singapore, relished the chance to address big picture questions and be free of everyday problem solving. The project’s open-ended nature fascinates her: they are in total control of where they go to from here. Others, like New Zealand educator Sarah, were excited about turning big ideas into action. Sarah’s interest in learning spaces sprung from the reconstruction of Christchurch schools after the 2011 earthquake.

So where to now for the 2016 Mayfielders?

  • They are compiling a top five from almost 200 hexagon “what if we” ideas collected at exchange. They will present this top five to each Education Minister.
  • They are keen to become active members in their Chapters and join Chapter committees. New Zealand recently had a Mayfield presentation from its NZ representatives.
  • A series of regular state-based Mayfield dinners are in early planning stages; one idea is to invite special guests to talk with the group.
  • NoTosh are undertaking a case study of the project to document the experience.
  • Educators in the Mayfield group are implementing some #whatifwe thinking in their classrooms.

Then there’s the personal impact on the Mayfielders. One participant’s feedback to the rest of the group indicates just how valuable the experience has been:

“… my new goal is to focus on never losing sight of the bigger picture and I urge you all please to do the same 🙂 no matter what gets thrown your way!”

Images courtesy Aaron Maguire, Peter Moeck, Lynette Julian, Lisa Horton