For the past several years, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) has featured "UnPrograms" as part of its educational curriculum. Earlier this week, Patrick Hindert, S2KM's primary blog author and a NAELA member, attended the Ohio NAELA 2012 UnProgram as a participant.
What is an UnProgram? NAELA's UnPrograms are moderated group discussions about specific topics. The topics typically are identified in advance and the discussions are informal. The handouts for the NAELA Ohio Chapter's 2012 UnProgram were limited to: a list of topics; suggested "Ground Rules", and a one-page evaluation form.
Compared with traditional conference lectures and panels, NAELA's UnProgram discussions are informal and encourage participation by all attendees.The discussions frequently focus on practice issues or actual cases and result in the exchange of ideas and best practices.
Based upon S2KM's limited experience with UnPrograms, these discussions seem to work best with less than 15 participants per topic. For larger groups, participants select from among multiple discussions which occur simultaneously and require space planning. Although it helps to have a moderator with specific subject matter expertise, subject matter experts inevitably emerge during the discussions. Individual discussions can vary in time allotments.
The agenda for the Ohio NAELA two day UnProgram featured topics suggested in advance by participants:
- Increasing efficiency and profits with technology.
- Cloud computing.
- How to market and expand an Elder Law practice.
- How Elder Law and Special Needs Law differ.
- Using care managers.
- Medicaid issues - planning scenarios; estate recoveries; eligibility issues; appeals process; spend down options; annuities; promissory notes; home exemption.
- Veterans benefit issues - planning priorities; irrevocable trusts; proposed pension legislation.
- Special pensions.
- Structured settlements and settlement planning.
Some of the "Ground Rules" for the Ohio NAELA UnProgram:
- Participants are encouraged to be polite and warned not to interrupt other participants.
- Participants are encouraged to ask any and all appropriate questions.
- Participants can politely decline to answer any questions.
- Discussions about fees and other issues that violate anti-trust law are prohibited.
- All other ideas are welcome and encouraged.
- The moderator is directed to monitor individual input to encourage broad participation.
- Break out sessions are suggested if and when a subset of participants want to discuss a specific subtopic or related topic.
- When participants become disinterested in a discussion topic, they are encouraged to move to another group.
- Groups are not expected to backtrack when new participants are late entering a discussion.
- Individual participants are encouraged to continue discussions during breaks and meals.
Although Ohio NAELA's UnProgram organizers did not attempt to integrate Internet use or Internet resources into the 2012 UnProgram, the UnProgram's informal, horizontal format appears well-suited for both synchronous and asynchronous Internet adaptibility. Private wikis with discussion features could prove especially valuable for organizing, capturing and leveraging the considerable knowledge generated by the Ohio NAELA UnProgram.
Additional resources and information about Internet-based knowledge management (KM):