Celebrating failure openly is a great avenue for authentic discussions with people who you may not know well but whose stories of failure embolden you to share yours and to accept failure as the first step to success. By Bakhtawar Khalid.

While hosting my first Fail Faire, I learned how difficult it is for speakers to embrace failure and vulnerability. We are programmed to put our best foot forward, so sharing your failure story goes against your instincts to protect yourself. This is why Fail Faires have become a platform for open discussion that facilitates new connections among the audience and speakers.

Fail often & learn fast to grow even faster 

Through the process of internalizing failure and accepting it as a stepping stone, we can experiment more
and learn quicker. An entrepreneur needs to experiment and identify weaknesses in their product for a more empathetic, useful design. Our Fail Faire in December 2019 was focused on learning about failures from our accountapreneurs who use entrepreneurship to create more aware, responsible and accountable societies.

Our accountapreneur Ommer Amir, founder of Daastan, an online publishing platform bringing transparent solutions in the publishing industry in Pakistan, shared his story on how difficult it was for him to take negative customer feedback at first. However, he came to realise that negative feedback did not put him down but rather helped him improve and fine tune his service delivery, which led a previously dissatisfied customer to recant her negative feedback and leave a great review of Daastan’s publishing services.

Nada Zohdy, Director of Open Gov Hub D.C, shared how initially as a community builder at OGH she saw herself as a pollinator of connections and networks. She tried to bring people together by organizing working groups and other combined working opportunities but this approach didn’t work and put undue pressure on her to arrange events. It was hard for her to accept that this approach was not working but once she acknowledged it with the help of a friend she felt liberated and chose to ask people what they want rather than trying to find the best solution for them.

Another accountapreneur of ours, Madeeha Raza, is the founder of Women Through Film, a training program equipping women to use film as tool to share their stories and create accountability against perpetrators of gender violence in the process. She shared her journey of organizing these training programs for women and how it was difficult for her when none of the confirmed participants showed up for her first training session. She did not allow this setback to be the end of her dream and instead took a break to regain strength and then came back revitalized and driven to grow participation.

Lessons from the fail faire
1. Ignite talk method is a useful tool to structure the fail faire talks and this was the first time we experimented with this method to improve our program structure. The visual aspect of the talk helped keep the audience engaged while it meant that all talks could be patterned on a similar method making the event more structured.
2. The importance of a plan B was reinforced when we had to use hard copies of the feedback form as the link to the online form wasn’t working
3. We also recorded the fail faire event which was a good practise for our systems as we asked our volunteers to record the event from multiple angles, requesting permission from those being recorded. it also helped to later review the event and post the fail faire talks which helped to promote the next event.

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, our next Fail Faire will be hosted via Facebook Live. While this was initially an unforeseen shift, it gives us the opportunity to experiment with the possibility of using social media to reach more people – an idea we considered in the past. As we transitioned into a fully virtual event, we decided to do a Facebook premier event which would allow us to upload pre-recorded videos as live events in which people could interact with the content while saving us the hassle of going live. This provided us with a unique opportunity to select speakers from different cities as there was no geographical restriction. The audience can also join in from any part of the world. We look forward to learning and iterating through this new experience. Luckily, we’re also prepared to face failure and grow from this experiment.

Bakhtawar Khalid is the Accountability Incubator Lead for Accountability Lab Pakistan