Reply to comment
Let's talk about unconferences first. These have been around for a couple of years, sometimes under the BarCamp banner, although this was actually the first one I had attended.
An unconference is an antidote to all those conferences where you pay good money to sit passively and be lectured at by a series of worthy people. I speak at enough conferences myself to know that the best part is always the lunch break, when you can actually network and exchange ideas with other attendees.
Instead, someone had the bright idea of inviting all the movers and shakers in a particular field and letting them decide what they wanted to happen when they met. It sounds pretty obvious now, but it was quite a departure at the time.
People who sign up to an unconference put forward suggestions for sessions, speakers and workshops. Convenors are then sought for the most popular topics. Whilst there is necessarily some organisation behind this, there is no overt leadership.
The general idea is to work towards some clear outcomes, such as project proposals, by the end of the event. The mix of people should include both visonaries and practitioners, so this is networking with teeth.
The participant list at an unconference hopefully draws down high quality sponsorship, with offers of good venues and catering, making the event itself free. It is also very friendly, with everyone talking to anyone they meet.
Then back in January the first CityCamp was held in Chicago, using the unconference approach. On Saturday I had a good conversation with the inspirational Kevin Curry, who dreamed it up. You can watch his opening speech, where he explains how CityCamps came about and what they do.
"Each City Camp has four main goals:
- Bring together local government officials, municipal employees, experts, programmers, designers, citizens and journalists to share perspectives and insights about the cities in which they live
- Create or maintain patterns for local government transparency and effective local governance using the Web as a platform
- Foster communities of practice and advocacy on the role of information and open data in cities
- Create outcomes that participants will act upon after the event is over "
Several CityCamps have followed across the world, and last weekend was London's turn. If there's one phrase which sums up the ethos of CityCamps it is 'open source' - open source deliberations, open source collaboration and open source solutions.
I could only get along to the second of the three days, but in spite of a substantial attendance it was buzzy and intimate. I joined four different round table workshops on topics like local democracy, the London media and 'politics for good'. On Sunday the ideas was for participants to pitch ideas to the whole community. Huddle has offered 20 free accounts to keep the projects moving, and there's talk of another meetup in 6 months. It will be really exciting to see what emerges.