What We Hope Will Happen

There are goals for ISDT, and also hopes. Here are some thoughts on what we’d like to see happen in Porto.

First, it’s important to understand that ISDT is not meant to be a typical academic conference. We’re not asking faculty to prepare papers or to deliver conventional academic presentations.

We’re mostly interested in dialog, and in inspiration, and sharing ideas.

For those reasons, the “spirit” of ISDT is important, meaning how the week makes everyone feel. We’ll be disappointed if most people feel they’ve been to a long conference where they listened to people give lectures. We’ll be satisfied if everyone feels that the dialog has been productive and stimulating, that the ample free time built into the schedule has been used well, and that the experience is rewarding enough that people want to do it again.

We’ll be really happy if all the participants feel like full participants in something very exciting and novel, in an effort that will branch out in different ways that will reach a lot more people and convey a sense of enthusiasm and purpose.

How well this works depends on everyone who participates. We hope that the program is already interesting and engaging, and we’re confident that the people who are coming are diverse, fascinating, enthusiastic and all the other qualities we want to share for a week. We hope that the presentations will launch really memorable discussions, both in the formal schedule and outside of it. We want everyone to look forward to whatever is next in the program. And of course everyone should enjoy Porto and the new people they will meet.

We have people coming from all over the world, or who have some contact with diverse parts of the world, so this is a seed of inspiration and sharing that can spread over the entire globe. There were people who wanted to come to Porto but couldn’t make it, and some people who asked to be invited when we do another ISDT in the future.

Doing something for the first time is always a bit of a gamble, and the organizers are likely to have ideas about what should happen that may not be totally clear to everyone else who is participating—especially because we want ISDT to be different than other conferences that are more familiar in format and intent.

But there’s also little feeling of “ownership” among the organizers. We want this to succeed, obviously, but we’re really counting on everyone who attends to contribute to the spirit and the “look and feel” of the school, so that the outcome, at the end of the week, is “owned” by everyone and by each participant. In addition to calling on everyone to try and make this a great experience, this means that there is a certain degree of flexibility in what we do during the week—if someone has a good idea that we haven’t thought of, that’s welcome. We’d also like to encourage our scheduled speakers, our faculty members, to adjust to the way that the school unfolds during the week.

A final hope that is important: everyone at ISDT should be treated as a peer, as an equal, as someone who has expertise and who is a critical part of the success or failure of the program. The faculty list was deliberately configured to include people at early stages of their careers, and people who have been working in a field for a long time. Students should feel encouraged to share their experiences and their thoughts during the discussion periods, and to engage faculty members outside of the scheduled sessions. We encourage people to get together and discuss topics on their own in informal groups. There should be a kind of blur between the scheduled lectures and the dialog they stimulate.

A week of really intense, memorable and enjoyable conversations would be a success!

We’ll kick off the week with a toast to success—Saúde!—and end the week the same way. Looking forward to seeing everyone soon in Porto.

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