What is a Solvathon?

A Solvathon is a small workshop-style gathering of academics and decision-makers from industry, government, or NGOs.

Lead by a team of Bieler jointly appointed faculty (JAF), Faculty Lecturers or Bieler Associate Members, up to two dozen participants will gather in Bieler School of Environment sponsored Solvathon to address a critical and topical environmental issue, with guidance from a professional facilitator and help from a graphic note-taker.

Solvathon may be oriented towards synthesis of existing scientific knowledge (e.g., a synthesis of current knowledge on biodiversity-ecosystem service relationships or the role of blue and green space in urban human well-being), or towards improving policy and decision-making in a particular arena.

How will a Solvathon work?

The Bieler School will help Solvathon leaders issue invitations, track acceptances, book hotels and space for the event, hire facilitators, organize catering and meals, and help participants organize travel. The Bieler School will also fund and hire a professional facilitator and graphic note-taker and will provide support for knowledge mobilization and knowledge mobilization products.

Every Bieler School Solvathon must be followed by a public-facing event to share the results and generate further ideas and insights. In many cases, this event will be held immediately following the Solvathon to take advantage of the presence of those who have traveled to attend; however, these public events may be held up to three months after the Solvathon itself.

Solvathon leaders are expected to work with the Bieler School Communications Officer to attract attention to the Solvathon and its public-facing event, such as through McGill audience outlets, social media, short videos featuring Solvathon highlights, or Bieler School-led webcasts.

Solvathon leaders must write a short (one-page) report of results that explains the goal of the Solvathon, the attendees and process, and briefly summarizes successes and challenges. The Bieler School will fund up to two Solvathons annually. 

Who can apply?

Bieler School JAF, Faculty Lectures and Associate Members can apply. The application must include one or two Bieler JAF or Faculty Lectures as leading partners. Bieler JAF and Faculty Lectures must be “mission critical” to the Solvathon; proposals that are merely an extension of one professor’s existing research are discouraged.

How do I apply?

Bieler JAF may apply by submitting the following materials as a single PDF file:

  1. A two-page (maximum) proposal that discusses the problem you are trying to solve or issue you want to address and how it fits with one or more of the Bieler School Themes; and that outlines the event you plan to hold, including who will participate and why
  2. A draft Solvathon agenda
  3. A list of invitees (name and position) that clearly indicates which invitees are confirmed
  4. A list of anticipated outcomes and products, including a mandatory public-facing event
  5. A proposed budget of up to $35,000. Additional funding up to $4500 will be made available for publication and promotion of outcomes. Up to $5000 additional funding will be made available for facilitators and graphic note-takers. (Bieler staff can assist with estimating costs and budget)

Solvathon events are to be held within 6 months of receiving notice that the proposal has been funded.

How are proposals reviewed?

Proposals will be reviewed by the Bieler School Committee and Director of the School. Proposals will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Led by at least two Bieler JAF, each of whom is essential to the proposed working group, with participation from other Bieler JAF as well as Bieler School associated and adjunct faculty members
  • Fit with at least one of the Bieler School themes
  • Expected success, as indicated by
    • an agenda matches the stated Solvathon goals,
    • a participant list that matches to Solvathon goals, and the proportion of confirmed participants,
    • clear plan for products, including public-facing Bieler School branded products that serve as knowledge mobilization
    • reasonable budget within program constraints
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