• Expand Your Horizons: Discover how improvisation is more than just comedy events; it’s a transformative tool across various sectors including AI, healthcare, and business.
  • Global Impact: Learn about the Global Improvisation Initiative’s work to merge arts with other fields globally, breaking cultural and disciplinary boundaries.
  • Efficient Event Management: Explore how the use of Sched has streamlined the organization of the Global Improvisation Initiative’s comedy events, enhancing participant engagement and scheduling efficiency.
  • Innovation in Action: See how improvisation fosters innovation and effective communication in unexpected ways, supported by Sched’s robust event planning tools.
  • Celebrity Insights and Event Success: Gain insights from industry giants like Colin Mochrie and learn from the pioneers who shaped the improvisation scene. Hear about the symposium’s high participant satisfaction and how Sched contributed to this success.

Imagine improvisation as a tool for innovation and communication, not just comedy events. Enter the Global Improvisation Initiative (GII), founded by Joel Veenstra and Theresa Robbins Dudeck in 2016.

The GII – through comedy events around the world – transforms how we use improvisation across fields like AI, business, and healthcare while honoring its underpinnings and origins in theatrical practice.

We spoke to Joel, from the University of California, Irvine, about their hugely successful symposium. It attracts hundreds, eager to learn and share. With contributions from stars like Colin Mochrie, GII celebrates improvisation’s past, present, and future.

Discover how GII uses improvisation to break barriers and foster connections globally. Join us and see how improvisation without borders is changing the world!


The Global Improvisation Initiative

The Global Improvisation Initiative Logo
The Global Improvisation Initiative


Joel Veenstra co-founded and co-directs the Global Improvisation Initiative (GII). It’s an international symposium and research framework. Their mission is as follows: 

International exploration of the art and impact of improvisation — appreciating the rich history and diversity of our field — and to promote the evolution and advancement of theatrical improvisation for future generations.

This initiative explores improvisation in its theatrical form and other applications. They document the current state of improvisation, reflect on its past, and envision its future.

Veenstra, a faculty member at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), met his co-collaborator, Theresa Robbins Dudeck, while she was at Chapman University. 

Now an Assistant Professor at Portland State University, Dudeck also travels the world teaching improvisation and applied improvisation. Together, they established the Global Improvisation Initiative in 2016. They held their first comedy events in 2017 in Southern California, hosted by both campuses.

Currently, Veenstra serves as the chair of the Department of Drama at UCI and heads the Stage Management program. 

His work extends beyond theatrical improvisation to applied improvisation, utilizing his skills and mindset for team building and communication. He collaborates with UCI’s schools of business, medicine, nursing, and other community members.

Veenstra enjoys the playful and interactive nature of improvisation, akin to what is done at The Second City and other theaters in the US. His work allows him to engage with a variety of talented individuals in the improvisational sphere.

BONUS ADVICE – Here are the top 53 college events students are craving. Incorporate them into your calendar to build a better college experience for your students!

The Global Improvisation Initiative’s comedy events

Gii Comedy Events Stage Performance Feature Performers And A Mentor
GII comedy events stage performance


The symposium attracts a diverse group, including those who use improvisation in AI, virtual reality, healthcare, academics, business, and in innovative ways in entertainment. These skills enhance communication, storytelling, and collaboration for more productive outcomes. 

The initiative welcomes presenters and participants from various backgrounds. While many associate improvisation with comedy events, it also thrives in theatrical contexts where it serves to create serious theater. Participants include improvisers, enthusiasts, and academics eager to elevate the art form beyond casual performances to a refined, evolving craft.

The initiative continues to explore how improvisation can serve humanitarian goals and foster better communication and care for each other and the planet.

How to Create an Event Schedule that Will WOW Your Attendees from Sched Support on Vimeo.


Famous faces 

Joel Veenstra recalls notable figures who have participated in the Global Improvisation Initiative’s comedy events. Colin Mochrie from “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” shared insights about his work. 

The influential Keith Johnstone, who recently passed away, also contributed significantly. Viola Spolin’s granddaughter, Aretha Sills, joined the symposium, along with many other presenters who both think about and perform improvisation on and off stage.

The huge success of their comedy events 

The first symposium in Southern California drew about 436 attendees, followed by nearly 200 in London, and over 600 participants during a mid-pandemic event. 

The response from the attendees has been resoundingly positive. Their session ratings have a whopping 9.3 rating, as well as plenty of written feedback: 

  • “Thank you for organizing this phenomenal and welcoming event! It was a wonderful experience!”
  • “A wonderful opportunity to share, explore, and engage with diverse, global, and like-minded people.”
  • “Congratulations!! A very useful [event]. Above all high expectations!”

MORE SUCCESS STORIES – If you’re looking for more event inspiration, you’ll find exciting case studies that celebrate event planning success with our tools!

GII comedy events planning before Sched

Coupe De Comedy Events Logo For 2024
Coupe de Comedy events logo for 2024


Joel Veenstra has been using Sched for almost a decade. This year marks his tenth event using the platform. 

Before discovering Sched, he faced challenges in creating a user-friendly schedule for participants to customize their signups, especially with concurrent events. Tracking attendance and communicating effectively took a lot of work.

He explored various tools, but many were too expensive. Sched offered an economical solution. 

It allowed participants to set their schedules, and register for events and provided customization options like graphics and color changes to brand the event uniquely each year. Veenstra appreciates these features, as they make each event look fresh yet familiar.

How Sched has helped the Global Improvisation Initiative’s comedy events flourish

Why Do Event Planners Love Sched? from Sched Support on Vimeo.


Joel described Sched as “a great way to organize my own thoughts.” Here is a breakdown of how Sched’ event planning tools help Joel and the GII make their comedy events a big hit: 

  • Past data: Joel Veenstra greatly appreciated the access to past event data. This feature simplifies resetting events each year. He can easily replicate or update the schedule by downloading an Excel spreadsheet of past events.
  • Schedule reminders: He loves that Sched sends daily schedule reminders to his attendees. 
  • Follow-up feedback requests: This helps speakers and artists see their event feedback and the overall event score. This gives a clear sense of how attendees felt. 
  • Sponsors: Sched’s sponsor listing feature is another highlight. Sponsors get their tab, making them easily visible. GII loved the ability to list artist bios and images, linking them to their sessions. This interactive element is exciting for participants.
  • Networking: Sched also allows attendees to see who else is participating, fostering connections. The platform’s multiple views—by venue, grid, or expanded version—and filtering options enhance usability. Switching time zones is particularly helpful for international events.
  • Customer support: Joel was happy to report that any help he needs building his events is attended to quickly:  “Sched team’s proactive communication and support have been outstanding”
  • Visuals: Veenstra finds the visual layout invaluable for planning concurrent events. This is a common theme across our success stories, like the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA)… 
    • CASE STUDY – Hear from Lee Wind. He raved about the professional look Sched gives IBPA. You’ll also be interested in hearing why this is so important in empowering their members!
  • Venue logistics: Sched’s ability to attach schedules to locations aids in planning and problem-solving, ensuring smooth event logistics.
    • We recently released a new tool that effortlessly assigns rooms across all your event sessions called Find a Room. Make it work for you now! 

Bonus event planning advice 

“Start as early as possible. If your event is going to be next week, you’re in trouble. If you could start a year out, that’s fantastic. If you can start 18 months or a year and a half out, even better. The more of a runway you have, the more ability you have to make adjustments and start things.”

The takeaways 

The Global Improvisation Initiative (GII) is more than just comedy; it’s revolutionizing improvisation across various industries—from healthcare to business.

Using tools like Sched, GII has streamlined their comedy events, enhancing engagement and organization.

Whether you’re in the arts or any professional field, GII’s insights into flexibility and innovation offer invaluable lessons in creativity and effective communication.

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Author: Harry Prince

Harry is responsible for content creation at Sched. From non-profit project development to cheffing, his experience is varied. Originaly from Scotland, he's currently writing from Amsterdam. Outside of telling stories about events, he likes cooking, old trains and running.