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Have a Happy Unconference

Can you imagine arriving to an event to find out there is no set agenda, no booked speakers, and no set aim? There is just a location, a name and a large bunch of people who are motivated by social change.

The event described is an Innovation Camp and there are a few of these that occur regularly within the UK: Social Innovation Camp, LocalGov Camp and 2gether08 which is the largest UK digital festival.

Those people who manage to secure themselves 1 out of only 100 invitations turn up at Social Innovation Camp (S.I. Camp) with no idea of what might be ahead.Everyone must be prepared to actively lead or participate in the sessions. This style of event is called an unconference where the topics are not decided until the actual day and only by the participants.Event in this format are unpredictable, volatile and hugely successful. Anna from S.I. Camp told me that the first day is always the most stressful and only after this can she can tell whether the event will be a success or not.

Graphic Designers, Web developers, Campaigners, NGOs, Politicians and entrepreneurs are some of the attendees who aim to use social technology for the greater social good. This, however, is not without a price, in SICamp six bare boned concepts are radically transformed into prototype web-based tools in a minuscule 48 hours! These intense weekends have produced hugely successful concepts and websites such as ‘Good Gym’ and ‘Enabled by Design’. Viewing these, it is hard to believe they were matured in such a short space of time.

These are inspiring examples of how people are brought together to share knowledge, ideas, skills and networks to tackle pressing social needs. Much can be learned from the fearless organisers of such events, in that sometimes in order to gain the most from audiences they need be engaged in a way which is uninhibited. SI camp believes that the event creates excitement by getting people face to face and talking about things which they feel passionate about. Even if organisations such as Kent County Council decide against holding their own unconferences there is still much to be learn behind the style of these events.

SI camp run miniature meet-ups, which anyone is free to sign up to (limited places of course!), a smaller group turn ideas around in an even smaller timeframe. It is worth contemplating whether some meetings should evolve into intense, uninhibited, unconference styles to quickly target social problems with a fast turnaround of ideas and solutions.

The Innovation team are currently researching Social Innovation events like these.

For more information please see:


Thank you to SICamp for use of the photo (image from Social Innovation Camp 08) published under Creative Commons
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