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Fail Fest DC 2013: Cathartic and Comedic

By Wayan Vota on December 9, 2013


On Thursday night, Washington DC celebrated failure in international development as a mark of leadership, innovation, and risk-taking in pushing the boundaries of what is possible in scaling ideas from pilots to global programs.

And we celebrated in style! (see the photographic proof here)

TechChange went all out with a sing-along-song on how there are no shortcut keys in online learning (watch the video) and Anahi Ayala Iacucci made the key point that sometimes we have to give the finger to our coworkers and funders to keep projects focused. But the subtle star of the night was Wade Channell’s satire of Paternalist Anonymous, which ended with this great Contractor Prayer:

“Grant me serenity to accept things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the COR who knows the difference.”

All throughout the night, I was impressed by all the presenters’ candor and comedy. Congrats to Dr. Tessie San Martin, Sean McDonald, Diane Griffin, Nick Martin, Anahi Ayala Iacucci, Kristen Roggemann, Wade Channell, Siobhan Green, Robert Salerno, Katherine Townsend, Azin Mehrnoosh, Ashley Good, Josh Haynes, and Ian Schuler for a damn good time.

Overall, I think my favorite presenter was Kristen Roggemann


Kristen reminded me why I love doing Fail Fests to begin with. She decided to present just the day before, as a way to find closure to a traumatic fail she had when she totally bombed a live demo and training with a client.

At first, she wasn’t comfortable talking about the event, but as we discussed it more the day of Fail Fest, she was able to talk through the event with acceptance, then confidence, and finally humor, finding the lessons in what was an open physiological wound. And after presenting at Fail Fest? She loved it, “catharsis all around:, she says.

You may not know this, but the first time I presented at a Fail event, I was scared I’d get fired for talking about how I was failing at two projects. Yet I wanted to admit my errors so badly, I went for it. When my boss found out, she was only mad that I had not included her, which led me to cry with relief that she would accept that I could fail. The next year, we presented our fails together.

Fail Fest UK: March 18th, 2014

And so I shall continue the Fail Fest experience. Mark your calendars for March 18th in London for Fail Fest UK 2014.

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of his employer, any of its entities, or any ICTWorks sponsor.
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