Reflecting on 2021: learnings and improvement

2021 was a year of improving what we learned about online Book Sprints in 2020, and a chance to slowly go back to our origins of in-person Book Sprints: traveling the world to meet with groups for an intense 5-day work journey. 2021 was full of uncertainties, but also gave some room to breathe. We held eleven Book Sprints, eight of them virtually and three onsite. Surprisingly enough, only four of them were previous sprinters, and six were brave new clients that ventured into online and onsite Book Sprints.

A busy start in 2021 both online and onsite

The year started with a busy schedule. In January, Cisco came back for a second virtual Book Sprint, and the 21st Book Sprint in total! They wrote a fantastic handbook on the platform Intersight for intelligent cloud operations. At the same time, we sprinted with old friends from the non-governmental organisation CARE International, this time in Southeast Asia. The participants from Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos reflected on the projects facilitated by the organisation along the Mekong River. During the Book Sprint, some of the participants were surprised by the military coup that took place in Myanmar, and the second half of the virtual meetings had to be postponed. Thanks to a lot of collaboration and strong spirit, the book could be concluded a few weeks later and the participants proudly held their final book in their hands. 

Intersight: A Handbook for Intelligent Cloud OperationsIntersight: A Handbook for Intelligent Cloud Operations

the cover of Cisco’s book produced in January during a virtual Book Sprint

It was also in January that we held the first onsite yet socially distancing Book Sprint since the start of the pandemic. Medienwerkstatt Encounters, a multimedia project based in Berlin, came together to reflect on encounters as a methodological approach, and the result was the book ‘What happens when we meet. Encounter as a method’, which will be published in spring of 2022 by Waxmann Verlag. 

participants from Medienwerkstatt Encounters celebrate the conclusion of their Book Sprint.

In March we facilitated three virtual Book Sprints. One was for an OER textbook on Anatomy & Physiology with the University of Hawai’i, their third Book Sprint so far. Another was a policy handbook with Power Africa, the Commercial Law Development Program in partnership with The African Legal Support Facility for their Understanding series, this time on the quite unexplored but relevant topic of power transmission financing. The third was a book with a team from the British Library and the Library of Congress, inspired by the peers who took part in the Book Sprint that created “Open a GLAM Lab” book, a huge success in the sector that has been made available in 6 languages so far. They created the open access handbook “​​Collective Wisdom: Perspectives on Crowdsourcing in Cultural Heritage”, while at the same time building a community of experts contributing their knowledge and expertise to the book.

Aloha! University of Hawai’i virtual Book Sprint

Beautiful cover for the book produced during British Library Book Sprint

Soon after we had the opportunity to sprint for the first time with Swiss-based MAVA Foundation. The Book Sprint offered an opportunity for the MAVA team tostep back after a years of hard work and reflect on their processes, successes, and to document exactly what their approach was and how it might inspire others in the conservation and sustainable economy community. The result was a reflective book entitled “​​Strategic Partnerships: MAVA’s approach to scaling up conservation impact”. 

More onsite Book Sprints in the second half of 2021

In September, MAVA Foundation came back for another Book Sprint, this time onsite on the stunning shores of Lake Geneva. “Be an Octopus. Reflections from an engaged donor” was a short, beautifully illustrated booklet sharing reflections regarding the pros and cons of MAVA’s high level of engagement as a donor organisation. 



October had another onsite Book Sprint in a very special setting: one of our facilitators traveled with aco-facilitator & translator to Mozambique for a Book Sprint with CARE. The Book Sprint was held in Portuguese with simultaneous translation, with all participants wearing masks. Fifteen CARE employees and partners reflected on the project PARCO for climate change and cultural resilience in Mozambique. 


Participants and facilitators at the end of CARE Mozambique Book Sprint… 5 days of intense group work with simultaneous translation in masks!

The last 2021 among the Book Sprints was also onsite, outside of Berlin. Members from Netzwerk Zukunftsorte, a driver for community-oriented real estate development, reflected on the potentials, challenges, funding opportunities and development strategies of real estate projects that aim at the common good. The Book Sprint took place at one of the community projects that the network is currently consulting, an organic animal farm.

Other Book Sprints that had been planned to happen onsite towards the end of the year had to be postponed once again, as the pandemic surged once more and restricted international travel. 

Research on Champions for innovative work methods

During the middle of 2021, we took the opportunity to pause and look at Book Sprints internal processes and production workflows. We were drawn to questions of who our partners and clients are, and how we respondto their needs. The organiser of a Book Sprint is often what we call a Champion, someone who ​​dares to try out new methods within their organisations, working around institutional hierarchies at their own risk. We take a great interest in this persona, an interest that motivated us to perform a study with researchers of intrapreneurship an organisational innovation, and do a survey with some of our Champions, in an effort to understand their challenges when organising a Book Sprint, their drives, and their strategies to adopt innovative work methods. 

We developed a survey in collaboration with academics and consultants, and we got many insightful responses and some in-depth long-form interviews  The results were incredibly interesting and provided insights on Champions from a broader perspective, which allowed us to improve how we were working to reflect their journeys better and to offer them all possible support when taking on a Book Sprint. You can find the blog posts where we share our findings on Champions for innovative work methods here.

Another book published!

Open Knowledge Institutions, a book produced during a Book Sprint with Curtin University in 2019, was published by MIT Press in August. This content underwent a collaborative and transparent writing and publication process: from the collaborative drafting facilitated by the Book Sprints team, to an open review period as the inaugural title in the MIT Press’s Works in Progress program, to its open publication both on PubPub and on MIT Press Direct. To celebrate the publication we held a webinar on Community Publishing where we shared more about this process with the facilitators, authors, and publishers. You can find more about community publishing here and watch the webinar.


Inviting our networks to the webinar for Open Knowledge Institutions, hosted by MIT Press, PubPub and Book Sprints

Welcoming 2022

The first quarter of 2022 is filling up fast with virtual and onsite Book Sprints that we look forward to. Another important development is a collaboration with our book designers and Coko Foundation to create book websites that will soon be able to be published alongside the epubs, pdfs, and print books. Some of our previous clients are already working on having their books turned into accessible and beautiful websites. That is one of our ways of responding to our clients’ needs and expectations.

May the New Year be full of possibilities, opportunities for growth, expansion and more tranquility for all.


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