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Think Tank Strategy

The Transition STEM event is designed as repeated cycles of
think tank strategy graphic showing circle process with five stages

  • hearing information and perspectives from knowledgeable speakers;
  • processing what was heard;
  • dialogue with other participants about the issues, solutions, and implications;
  • reflecting on the discussion points and recommendations emerging from the dialogues;  and
  • prioritizing recommendations.

Hearing: The 1 ½ days are organized around the critical transition points for Wounded Warriors as they move toward STEM careers. (Refer to the agenda.)

Processing: As you listen to the speakers, take note of the perspectives and ideas shared. Are they consistent with your experiences? What have you heard that broadens your perspective giving you new insight? What ideas, solutions, or lingering questions are percolating? (A form is provided to help you organize your thoughts in preparation for the dialogue. Use the organizer if you find it helpful. If not, then please feel free to develop your own method of note-taking.)

Dialogue: Through Community Conversations, participants will have the opportunity focus their ideas, share, brainstorm together, and arrive at solutions. The Community Conversations are a modified World Café approach. This approach assumes that the collective wisdom of the group is powerful. (See the step-by-step instructions for participating in the Community Conversations.)

Reflecting:  During and after the Community Conversations, new ideas, insights, and questions may emerge. It is recommended that you use the same organization system used for Processing to record your reflections throughout the event. As we move through the agenda, you may have reflections on earlier topics or conversations. Using the organization system will help you track your ideas and will be important to Prioritizing recommendations.

Prioritizing:  The transfer of the collective wisdom into priorities for action is the ultimate goal. After each round of Community Conversations, the facilitators will prepare summaries. These summaries will be posted. The task is for each participant to assist in the refinement and prioritization of the recommendations. (See the instructions for Prioritizing.)

Dialogue: Community Conversations

Notice in the agenda the time slots for Community Conversations. To guide the conversations are five questions organized into conversation clusters. Each cluster is assigned a table with a facilitator. Approximately eight people will be in a conversation cluster. For more information see the instructions below.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Participants

  1. You have a table number marked on the outside of your materials packet. This table number gives you your starting point for the conversations.
  2. At the first conversation, the facilitator will invite the group for a quick round of introductions.
  3. The table facilitator will review the Community Conversation Etiquette and the Conversation Cluster question.
  4. Everyone is invited to respond to the question and the facilitator notes salient points on the chart paper.
  5. After 15 minutes, choose a different Conversation Cluster.
  6. The facilitator will read the question and then take two minutes to summarize/synthesize what the prior group said.
  7. In this second round, everyone is invited to respond to the question and build on the prior group’s conversation.
  8. At the end of 15 minutes, you will go to a third/final Conversation Cluster table.
  9. The facilitator will read the question and then take two minutes to summarize/synthesize what the two prior groups said.
  10. In this second round, everyone is invited to respond to the question and build on the prior groups’ conversations.
  11. At the conclusion of the three rounds, each table facilitator will summarize the key points from the discussion.
  12. Charted notes from the Conversation Clusters will be posted for all to review and prioritize.
time sequence graphic


The notes taken from the Community Conversations will be summarized and posted. As you continue to reflect on the conversations, what are the priorities for action? What are the most important issues to address? Of the range of issues, which strategies do you believe will have the greatest impact? What are the prioritized recommendations for policy leaders, higher education, community services and supports, and NSF? What actions should be invested (financial and human resources) heavily in?

Prioritizing will be done by “star-ocracy,” in other words, voting with stars. After reflecting on the conversations, you will use star stickers on the charted summaries to indicate the priorities for consideration and action. This voting process will show the priorities for next steps.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Participants

  • You are given a sheet of star stickers.  If you run out, you can get more.
  • After the rounds of Community Conversations, the facilitators will prepare summary charts.  These charts will be displayed through the duration of Transition STEM.
  • Review these summary charts throughout the event and reflect on your thoughts about priorities for next steps.
  • Use your stars to mark the key points and recommendations you believe to be priorities.