The Broad Institute: an experiment in collaboration in science

This morning I was rapidly clearing old journals, part of our shipshape initiative, when I ran across mention of The Broad Institute.

Having taken up a professional path that has collaboration at its core, I am fascinated by the ways in which science has embraced the collaborative spirit to further their work.

The Broad Institute is essentially an “experiment” in a new way of doing science and grew out of major initiatives at Harvard and MIT, respectively.

“This generation has a historic opportunity and responsibility to transform medicine by using systematic approaches in the biological sciences to dramatically accelerate the understanding and treatment of disease. To fulfill this mission, we need new kinds of research institutions, with a deeply collaborative spirit across disciplines and organizations, and having the capacity to tackle ambitious challenges.”

With a deeply collaborative spirit across disciplines and organizations – amen

I am interested in the dynamic tension between this critical spirit of collaboration and the need to personally / professionally publish, patent, garner awards. How do the Technology Transfer departments within the universities fit into this picture.

Encouraged by the spirit of cooperation reflected in the mission at Broad

Our Clients: Informed

Tools and Projects related to our Informed work:


Data Analytics, in partnership with The Impact Lab

Case Study: Building the Star Cafe with the AFSC

Case Study: Building a Compliance Alerts List w Workflows

SharePoint & PlanWin, in partnership with Integral Design Software

R, SPSS, write code

The Data Analytics process starts with a problem, a lack of clear information on some key topic or issue; proceeds to the consideration and design of the right set of questions; includes a survey of all the currently available data; may include the development of tools to collect specific, up to date information that is currently not available; and ends with a clear set of reports and images that make the lessons learned clear.

But also in this process there is the magic of the actual analysis of data.

The Impact Lab uses R, SPSS, and sometimes writes code – to make this magic happen.

We at LTA leave this heavy lifting to them. Within our partnership we are on the same page, and the necessary handoff works.


About R:

During the last decade, the momentum coming from both academia and industry has lifted the R programming language to become the single most important tool for computational statistics, visualization and data science. Worldwide, millions of statisticians and data scientists use R to solve their most challenging problems in fields ranging from computational biology to quantitative marketing. R has become the most popular language for data science and an essential tool for Finance and analytics-driven companies such as Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

About SPSS:

The original SPSS manual (Nie, Bent & Hull, 1970) has been described as one of “sociology’s most influential books” for allowing ordinary researchers to do their own statistical analysis.

Long produced by SPSS Inc., it was acquired by IBM in 2009.

Visual Analytics: Tableau

The point of Data Analytics is to make the lessons embedded in complex data sets, clear.

A valuable aspect of that work is the ability to provide graphics that can drive these lessons home.

The Impact Lab deploys Tableau for this work, and in partnership with them, LTA staff are able to work directly with you to deliver these images that will allow you and your audience to envision your information.

Tableau’s tag line: Visual Analytics for Everyone – Easy to use, easy to love

Fluid Surveys

Data, of course, is at the heart of Data Analytics. Duh! Right?

It is likely that in the course of your work you are gathering lots, and lots of data. And even more data is streaming past. All of this is or can be part of a data informed approach to your business. And capturing and making sense of that data is at the heart of Data Analytics.

But you will also from time to time stop to ask particular questions, get answers to those questions, and get to the heart of what those answers indicate – and how they should impact your work going forward.

These questions can be about the impact of your program work, attitudes and experiences in your workplace, possible strategic partnerships – literally, you name it. And these can be questions for your staff, your constituents, your governance team, the woman on the street.

To approach and capture this type of data, The Impact Lab uses Fluid Surveys. And in partnership with them, LTA staff can work directly with you to apply it.

Showcasing Your Work – old

First and foremost you get into better world work for the lives, lands and seas you and your work will impact directly. But to do this well and maximize the impact you need the dedication and esprit of your team, the generosity of your funders and donors, and the serendipity of everyone who helps you along the way.

A key to providing the spark for that esprit, the inspiration for your donors and the opportunity to reach your full, wide audience is to tell your story well and showcase your work.

One way LTA helps you to do this is with Google’s Hangouts On Air.  For an introduction to how this can work for you in showcasing your work, see:

We worked with the AFSC’s Impact & Integration Team to both broadcast and archive an hour-long debrief session with their group of 2013 Fellows and Interns. You can check out a brief Case Study here.

LTA can also work with your key staff to help them develop “Telepresence”, a skill set that will allow them to make presentations and report on their work to meetings and conferences around the world, without the need to travel.

Data Analytics: Getting to Effective

In his NY Times article on the way the Nature Conservancy and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology teamed up to create “pop up” wetlands for the millions of migratory birds who use California’s Central Valley as a flyway, Jim Robbins includes this quote from Eric Hallstein, an economist with the Nature Conservancy; “It’s a new ‘Moneyball,’  We’re disrupting the conservation industry by taking a new kind of data, crunching it differently and contracting differently.”

Moneyball, of course refers to Michael Lewis’ book about the Oakland Athletics’ data-driven approach to baseball.

We have entered into a new era where Data Analytics is helping us all home in on what it means for us, and our work to be effective.

Andrew Means, founder of the Impact Lab cuts to the quick, “Simply put, we help you ask and answer questions.”

Through our partnership with Andrew and the Impact Lab we are able to help you get to effective.

Building a Framework for a Lasting Peace II

Building a Framework for a Lasting Peace

The idea of outlining the conditions necessary for Building a Framework for Lasting Peace and Justice had taken root at the AFSC and a group of staff came together in Chicago around the project. (We at Lighthouse still love good old-fashioned in- person meetings by the way. We just think that we have reached an era where they can used strategically,  judiciously, sparingly.)

That group generated the first draft of the Framework. The next step they envisioned was to solicit broad input from the AFSC community and to use that input to forge a final Framework that had buy-in across the organization and could be used to guide program work and the direction of new initiatives.

Mary Zerkel, Director of Praxis/ Economic Justice and Leader of the AFSC’s Wage Peace Program, and Peter Lems, Program Officer for Integration and Impact were charged with carrying the project forward. They knew they wanted to use some kind of small group video conferences and the Star Cafe, and they approached our team to hammer out the details.

We worked with them first to envision the dynamics and then the logistics. We addressed a wide range of issues that included:

  • Who should participate? All staff? Programs staff? (in the first phase, the focus was on the staff.)
  • How can we keep track of the sign-up process? of attendance?

Our team offered test-connects, so staff who were unfamiliar could experience the video technology prior to their meeting

How best to develop the content and flow of these sessions?

We opted to use the IT department for the first meeting and  a “family and friends” group for the second.

These sessions let Mary & Peter sharpen their skills as facilitators for this series of Framework sessions

How to capture “what we heard”?

Without this, the results could lack credibility and these sessions could come to be viewed as “feel good” work. We took notes during and recorded each session and LTA combed through these materials to extract the key themes that had emerged.

Out of these discussions came a design and an implementation plan.

Here is the Front Page of the intranet room developed for this project

Framework Page in the Star Cafe


Note the access to the current version of the Framework, the Background on the Project, the List of Staff who had attended the original meeting in Chicago (who could be resources for the rest of the staff who might have questions about the process, and the sign-up list.

Early on, it proved hard to schedule and bring together the sessions. We would offer Doodle Polls with available time slots, but the sign up proved sparse. We were working with busy people, busy calendars, and with lots of moving-target events in their work life.

We had a breakthrough when we switched to fixing two or three times a week for meetings and then committing to filling them. We would ask a friend who would ask a friend – and soon we had a string of well attended meetings. And people loved them.

Fitz from LTA shepherded and managed each of these small group video conference sessions.

Word spread and soon Mary & Peter were asked to bring the Board Programs Committee up to speed on the Framework project. Two hours were allotted for the session and  LTA suggested “Lets get them involved. Lets offer them a ‘fishbowl’ session right in the room in Philadelphia.” And we did. They loved it too. Members of the Committee shifted in and out of the fishbowl and had their say. Mary and Peter facilitated via video conference from Chicago.

Later Mary and Peter briefed the full Board, who reviewed and commented on the Framework draft too.

Kate from LTA took up the What We Heard task. She attended some meetings, listened to the recording of every one, and consolidated Mary’s and Peter’s in-session notes into her final executive summary and report.

Today the AFSC is indeed working to Build a Framework for a Lasting Peace and Justice.

Meeting Ready Offices/Meeting Ready Staff – full

Well designed meeting spaces that are ready when you need them are critical to holding effective meetings, and therefore vital to your organization’s work.

Enabling staff to use your Intranet to directly schedule the appropriate spaces, resources and support they need for their meetings will enhance their confidence in feeling meeting ready and make it possible to coordinate meetings more efficiently – both in your main office and in satellite offices across your organization.

We can work with you get all offices within your organization meeting ready, including the home offices of key staff….

We have found that three types of meeting space are key.

Large Meeting Ready Rooms

Your organization may require a large meeting ready room which can seat fifty or more and easily facilitate participation by presenters and participants who are at a distance. Features of this room could include:

  • A built-in computer – and the ability to plug an additional laptop into the Room systems
  • A ceiling projector and retractable screen
  • Ceiling mics and speakers
  • Integrated access to your phone system to bring conference calls in and out of the Room
  • Integrated Room Cameras to allow remote attendees to get the in the room experience
  • Microphone jacks to accommodate a set of wired mics
  • A lectern with a built-in wired mic
  • A wireless mic that is integrated with the Room’s sound system
  • A Lavaliere style of mic that allows a moderator to move about and to work hands free throughout the meeting
  • A set of wired mics and cables that can be deployed to meet a meetings needs
  • Wireless Internet access

A Large Meeting Ready Room can accommodate meetings that span and include your entire organization.

If your organization works over multiple time zones we have developed a method for  holding  back-to-back meetings, allowing all staff members to participate/ attend this kind of meeting during or close to working hours.

If you have headquarters in the States, the first meeting can work in the early afternoon on the East Coast. This meeting can also accommodate staff in Latin America and the Caribbean. A second session the following morning at 7 AM on the East Coast can make it possible for staff working in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East to attend.

This method can include recording the Presentation portion of your first meeting; then playing that back and holding a real-time discussion in your second session, around the same material staff members discussed in the first.

Providing access to recordings and presentation materials from both sessions can make these All Staff meetings available to those who have a conflict with the original meeting or are simply interested in listening to the discussion in the session they were unable attend.

A Large Meeting Ready Room that  is  both well-designed and well-equipped can also become a sources of revenue. You can make these spaces available to your partners or outside groups for a fee.

Smaller Videoconference Ready Rooms

These smaller, more intimate rooms can become very popular and effective. They can allow groups of up to eight to 10 to meet in the room and for a similar number of participants  to join them via videoconference.

These smaller rooms can accommodate any type of meeting; face-to-face, an audio conference, a web conference or a video conference. And can be used for a wide range of purposes; as working spaces for leadership teams or workgroups, spaces to hold interviews, demonstrations by outside vendors or partners, and ad hoc sessions when the room is free.

Features of this room could include:

  • A room computer – and the ability to plug an additional laptop into the room display
  • A large, flat screen tv that serves as a monitor
  • A high-quality conference phone, we typically recommend Polycom
  • A Room Camera that provides remote attendees with the in the room experience
  • A whiteboard, that can be in the view of the Room Camera
  • A conference table and chairs
  • One or two available ethernet jacks
  • Wireless Internet access

We find that these smaller video conference ready rooms can be valuable and valued spaces in your Main Office and in your Regional Offices.

Creating Meeting Ready Small Offices

Smaller offices can be made meeting ready too,  even if a dedicated meeting space is not available. We can provide staff with a meeting “kit” and the training they need to set it up easily, allowing staff in even the smallest office to routinely host or attend meetings over a distance.

Equipment included in this kit can include:

  • A projector
  • A quality webcam with a flexible stand that allows the camera to be used to scan the room or to move from person to person to highlight the current speaker.
  • A Chat 50 (or Chat 150) personal / group USB speakerphone.
    • Note that unlike a Polycom – no phone is built into the Chat 50. Rather the Chat 50 provides you with full-duplex mic and speakers for any VoIP-based telephony you may deploy.

This kit can easily be attached to a computer or laptop allowing staff based in even the smallest offices to initiate or attend meetings from their location.

Our staff can work with your staff to evaluate their meeting ready needs, recommend equipment matched to those needs, and provide the documentation, orientation and training to make their meetings work.

Meeting Ready Offices require Meeting Ready Staff.

Some staff will simply need to learn to join and participate in meetings.  We can work with them to quickly get them up to speed on the basics.

We provide simple orientations and access to straightforward training sessions and materials* for all staff.

Some staff members on the other hand will want to be able to organize and host meetings, deliver presentations, manage their own audio, web or video conferences, even organize and facilitate a Cross Organizational Conversation.

For these users we provide powerful documentation, learning and training solutions. These can include:

  • Detailed User Guides
  • Access to relevant vendor training resources
  • Individual or small group training sessions, even short courses

Remove if used above [An Intranet Calendar and List that allows staff to schedule Rooms and Resources can be a resource that is critical to the success of your meeting ready staff. ]

We  will help you to build and maintain an Intranet database that lets you track the status of your meeting ready offices and staff. This can alert you that a new skill or critical piece of equipment will be required for an upcoming meeting. This can also [let you develop] → aid you in developing  a strategy for spreading meeting readiness across your organization.

For these users we provide powerful documentation, learning and training solutions. These can include:

  • Detailed User Guides
  • Access to relevant vendor training resources
  • Individual or small group training sessions, even short courses

We  will help you to build and maintain an Intranet database that lets you track the status of your meeting ready offices and staff. This can alert you that a new skill or critical piece of equipment will be required for an upcoming meeting. This can also aid you in developing  a strategy for spreading meeting readiness across your organization.


* Training materials come in a variety of formats; video clips, web-based, traditional documents

Technologies – summary

The Lighthouse Team has expertise in a wide range of applications that foster collaboration, including:


The Wikipedia SharePoint article leads with this: “Microsoft SharePoint is a Web application platform developed by Microsoft. First launched in 2001,[3] SharePoint has historically been associated with intranetcontent management and document management, but recent versions have significantly broader capabilities.[4] It is the dominant software for creating organizational intranets with a recent survey indicating that around 50% of all intranets are developed using SharePoint.

You can read more here:

LTA supplements SharePoint with InfoPath, Workflows, PowerPivot, and a thorough understanding of the issues in audience and permissions to create innovative SharePoint solutions.


The WebEx tagline is: Connect with anyone, anywhere, any time

One of the beauties of WebEx is that you can join by PC, Mac, the WebEx Mobile App on your pad or smartphone, or by phone only. The LTA Meeting Support Services team works closely with our clients to determine where opportunities for deploying web conferencing lie; and in developing the skills that Presenters, Hosts and Attendees need to make those meetings effective.

We work with our clients to build a culture where virtual meeting complements face-to-face meeting in ways that enhance effectiveness and cohesion while reducing costs.

Google Hangouts On Air

When Google first released their Hangouts I looked askance at the name. But now I think they got it right, let the kids play and the grownups learn.

Now NASA uses the Hangout technology to connect us with space, how cool is that?

With up to 10 people in the conversation, the capacity for thousands of viewers, and the ability to archive the meeting on your YouTube channel – all that free of charge, Hangouts definitely have their sweet spot.

Also, definitely fits into the “looks easy” category.

Fitz worked closely with the American Friends Service Committee to create this:


Skype turned the world upside down back in 2003 with its free calls, instant messaging and web cam connections. At first it was the techies, then service men and women overseas, kids studying abroad, and now millions and millions of users worldwide.

Skype might not be central to your communication strategy, but you can’t live without it. We’re old hands and can help you find the fit.

Ready Talk

Audio conferencing is still foundational to meeting. We like the people at Ready Talk who provide a rock solid platform, attentive support, and a focus on the non-profit marketplace.

Also, we have worked with numerous audio conferencing platforms and know the in and outs. If you are already using a conference call vendor, we can work with yours


Reach out to LTA if you’d like to know more.