Failure Swapshop – BarCampNFP edition

Posted by on February 22, 2013 in geeky stuff | 4 comments

Failure Swapshop – BarCampNFP edition

Yesterday was a great day at Bar Camp non-profits; as the name suggests a barcamp format unconference with a charity (or non profit) focus.

Less techy than other bar camps I’d been too, but equally brilliant in terms of the things I learned, conversations I had and people (new and old) I met.

If you’ve never been to one, GO.

If you think there isn’t one relevant to you, set one up.

The unconference format works for any area of interest and I always learn more than at a “normal” conference.

I ran a failure swapshop towards the end of the day, a usual slow start where people needed some encouragement but then it really got going.

For those not familiar with the failure swapshop it follows a very simple format:

  1. “Hi my name is ____ and I failed”
  3. Explain your failure
  4. Share the lessons learned

There are only 2 rules:

  1. We’re all friends
  2. Share only the lessons learned

The aim of the session is to encourage people to discuss their failures in a safe and supportive way, sharing only the lessons learned with those outside the room.

Lessons learned from Bar Camp NFP:

  • Take a step back
  • Understand your sector
  • Don’t go it alone
  • Listen first
  • Proof read it twice
  • Research first
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up
  • Check processes before you leap
  • Trust your team
  • Don’t do what you’re told
  • Understand the people you work for
  • Be considerate
  • Don’t be arrogant
  • You always have a duty of care
  • Don’t trust the tech
  • Be Prepared
  • Don’t underestimate internal politics
  • Don’t use old resources
  • Plan time to check
  • Journalists are not always your friends
  • Don’t assume your processes are correct
  • Triple check the project
  • Take it slow
  • Read the T+C’s
  • Fail well & lie convincingly
  • Order more coffee!

A HUGE thank you to all who took part, including those that tweeted and took photos.

My favourite tweet from the session:

@hollyjunesmith “Total bunch of failures at @alukeonlife‘s Failure Swapshop #barcampnfp


A vine from @spirals

And finally, if you’d like to see some more: some notes from the Failure swapshop at barcamp bournemouth 3.


  1. I loved this session. Seeing people get more and more comfortable and celebratory about failure and the positive learnings that come from it was fantastic!

    I’m already cooking up ways to incorporate the idea at work, Although I think the excessive caffeine consumption @barcampnfp might have meant the energy is less repeatable at work 🙂

  2. Completely in agreement with Laila. Its so important to be comfortable with failure cos its only then you can learn from it. And in this case everybody else’s too!

  3. I was first up (after Luke) and confessed to two business failures. I was so grateful to be able to admit to failure, having spent so many years in a world that is intolerant to failure. It was really great to get it off my chest.
    We all make mistakes, and I agree with Catherine that the important thing is to learn from them.

  4. What the others said! I actually think this was a great energiser – caffeine or not, I felt dead on my feet before this session, and it really got everyone going. Nice one Luke!


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