Students Learn to ‘Fail Fast’ at Storytelling Summit, Hosted at SCS’s Downtown Campus


November 19, 2013 – “Fail fast” is what participants learned during a two-day summit on storytelling, innovation and change sponsored by the Georgetown h.innovation Series and hosted by Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies.

“Failure doesn’t mean that you did something wrong,” said Nick Norberg (C’16), a linguistics student. “Even if your idea didn’t work, your spurt of crazed creativity can be applied somewhere else or can be used in another project or molded to fit another use.”

The university’s inaugural Storytelling Summit brought together more than 100 students, faculty, senior administrators, staff and alumni with thought-leaders from technology, media, design, fashion, food and ethics to explore how stories can lead to innovation.

The summit was a collaborative effort sponsored by the School of Continuing Studies, University Information Services (UIS), Office of the Chief Information Officer, Office of the President, Office of the Provost, Office of the Chief Operating Officer, Office of Planning and Facilities Management and the Office of Sustainability.

Storytelling for Change

According to summit organizers, the ability to tell a compelling story is a stepping-stone to creating positive change.

Great storytelling can strengthen communities by inspiring empathy, collaboration and collective action.

“I think today was all about being reminded how we need to see the world through the lens of narratives,” said Melissa Macaya (G’14), an SCS student studying journalism. “At the end of the day, the elements that make a good story don’t change. I think sometimes as journalists we think that we need to tell stories in a particular way. Today showed me that we need to think outside the box more.”

Featured keynote stories, interactive workshops and a story-hacking session allowed participants to learn how they can tell their own stories.

University-Wide Innovation

h.innovation is an initiative of UIS that strives to tackle problems worth solving and provides a platform to spotlight future leaders at Georgetown.

“We wanted to create an event that was unlike anything that any university has hosted before,” said Michael Wang (B’07), h.innovation founder and program manager for innovation and new media in UIS. “We hope to curate experiences that create memorable, interactive learning opportunities and inspire meaningful projects.”

h.innovation invites guests from various organizations to Georgetown to share their failures and successes.

At the summit, guests from popular viral news website BuzzFeed, D.C.-based fashion brand Hugh & Crye, Google Glass and Internet media company Vox Media led interactive workshops.

Convening Space

The university’s new downtown space, home of SCS, was chosen to host the summit’s all-day Saturday session because its state-of-the-art facilities were designed for collaboration in a location near many community partners.

"The Storytelling Summit was really the ideal event for us to host in our new downtown space,” said Walter Rankin, SCS interim dean. “It allowed us to engage the Georgetown community in cross-disciplinary discussions exploring innovation and transformation in higher education. These are themes that give meaning to our work and, we hope, will help us as we reimagine the narrative for our school.”

The h.innovation series will continue in early 2014 with the second annual Georgetown Hackathon. Organizers intend for the stories from the summit to frame challenges for participants to tackle over the 36-hour event.

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