Thursday, January 3, 2013


scrum [skruhm] (noun) -
  1.  a Rugby play in which, typically, three members of each team line up opposite one another with a group of two and a group of three players behind them, making an eight-person, three-two-three formation on each side; the ball is then rolled between the opposing front lines, the players of which stand with arms around a teammate's waist, meeting the opponent shoulder to shoulder, and attempt to kick the ball backwards to a teammate.
  2. British. a place or situation of confusion and racket; hubbub.
In November of 2012 we decided to try a new way of communicating with our VISTAs. Right before the Thanksgiving holiday we had our very first VISTA Scrum.

The idea stemmed from conversations with NC Campus Compact VISTAs from all over the state. The volunteers expressed their desire to communicate and bond with their cohort. Many also wished they could meet the group face-to-face. NC Campus Compact's response? The VISTA scrum.

Screenshot of a December Scrum
The VISTA scrum is a 30-minute, online event that happens twice a week and uses webcams and chat software to help NC Campus Compact VISTAs connect. Together they solve problems, and refine ideas in a mostly casual, occasionally loud, slightly chaotic environment. The sessions take place in a meeting room in Adobe Connect, but Skype or Google Hangouts (both of which are free) would work equally well.

Each scrum starts with a set of round robin questions:
  1. What have I been working on since we last talked?
  2. What do I plan to work on this week/month? or What projects/events do I have coming up?
  3. What challenges or obstacles am I facing/might I face?
VISTAs are asked to reflect on their projects, examine their goals, and hold one another accountable. Sometimes this process takes the majority of the allotted 30 minutes, sometimes it goes by in a flash. The important part is not the length of time, but in the self-reflection and group accountability. Any time left is devoted to any of a wide range of subjects including MLK Day of Service preparation, reporting, resume development, and skill development.

The sessions end precisely at the 30 minute mark. If the conversation is good, participants may stay and continue, but their obligation is done at half an hour. They're busy people, their time is valuable, and nobody likes a 30 minute meeting that lasts an hour.

VISTAs are required to attend just two a month and so far the response has been positive. Some have attended every scrum and each time they have something new to contribute. The hope is that by getting to see and interact with one another, the NC Campus Compact VISTAs will feel more connected to their cohort and their projects, and treat one another as resources and allies as they continue their service.