Deane at Gadgetopia recently discovered the Unconference entry on Wikipedia. This is a topic I created on Wikipedia back in November 2005. It caused a bit of a kerfluffle with Dave Winer at the time, who slammed me indirectly for getting the attribution on the term wrong.
Since I created the entry, it has been edited hundreds of times (only a few by me) and is a nice comprehensive, yet concise, article now. This is one of the reasons why I love the Internet and the Web.
There are two conferences I’ll be attending in DC in June that I wanted to let you know about. They happen to overlap but are in the same building, so you could hit them both if you wanted.
First, Jeff De Cagna is spearheading a social media unconference for association executives on June 5, 2007 at ASAE & the Center’s meeting space in the Reagan Building. The event is free and will be driven by the attendees. Simply add your name to the registration list on the web site if you wish to attend. I’m very excited this event is happening and I encourage you to attend if you are passionate about social media and/or want to learn more about it.
The second event is the Gilbane Washington DC conference on June 5-6, 2007, also at the Reagan Building. This conference focuses on content management technologies for government and non-profit organizations. Content is tracked, so there should be something for everyone. I will be facilitating a panel on integrating association and content management systems and processes. This event is not free but you can get a $100 discount by entering my last name as a promotional code when you register.
I hope to see you at one or both events!
Ben Martin has posted an interesting interview with Richard Lewis about the rebirth of the Prometheus retreat as a stand-alone, volunteer run effort. (Here is an earlier post I made about this issue.)
Nice illustration of how people can pursue the same mission as an association without actually doing so through the association. I think ASAE handled this in a productive fashion, so kudos to them! There are important strategic lessons in this chain of events for all membership organizations.
I was at the Freedom to Connect conference earlier this week at the AFI Theater in Silver Spring, MD. The conference covered internet and telecom policy issues for hard core tech/policy geeks and had a who’s who of wonks, scientists, lobbyists and gurus in attendance. Even a member of Congress.
The time was ripe for one of the most surreal DC moments of my life to happen at this meeting:
FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein jamming on stage with Howard Levy, a world-renowned harmonica musician, while Scooter Libby’s conviction was reported in a chat channel projected 20 feet tall on the screen behind them. Woo!
I’ll post some of my notes and comments about the conference over the next couple of days.
Ben Martin has pointed out an interesting scenario for ASAE, who just canceled a small program that is highly valued by the few members who have participated in it. ASAE’s Prometheus program is an open space event for senior association execs that is purposely kept small in size. This is a great opportunity to facilitate the formation of self-guided group while moving an unprofitable program off the books. Will they see it as an opportunity or a pain in the neck? I hope the former. (Read Ben’s post for an excellent summary of the situation.)
This ZDnet post by Phil Windley gives a good example of the value of an unconference.
Ben has some concerns about how an unconference for associations executives could work.
I love the hallway track. The pictures, though, got me thinking deeper about unconferences. Look how few people are in those rooms! Because there are so few people around the table, and because they’re opting into rooms around a topic of interest, I also get the feeling that they had a lot in common in terms of the problems and issues they grapple with. In short, they have a high degree of shared context — those rooms are high context environments.
I keep thinking about an unconference for the association community. But it’s becoming clear to me that it probably wouldn’t work. I don’t share enough context with professionals in government relations, public relations, education, etc. to truly provide value to them, or get value from them in a high context environment.
One of the commonalities among the unconferences going on is that they typically have a high-level focus of some sort that will attract the right audience to discuss that set of issues. I get the feeling that Ben is envisioning ASAE’s annual meeting with all the topical structure stripped away. This isn’t how I’ve been looking at it. I think the traditional annual meeting format is the complete antithesis of an unconference. It is too huge of a content tent. There has to be some focus around which to gather people.
One possible idea: How about an Association 2.0 unconference as a grass-roots event? Find some donated space, put together a blog, and get people talking about how associations can increase member participation beyond the limitations imposed by the traditional models?
Here is an interesting essay from Nonprofit Online News: The Permeable Nonprofit
People Support Causes, Not Tax-Exempt Corporations
Organizations could respond to this assault on their boundaries with policies of control, as many did with email and are trying to do with blogging, were it not for some critical facts: The people who are in these new networks are their people. The issues being taken up by these networks are their issues. The passion that is driving these networks is the passion they were counting on.
This fits well with some of the ideas I discussed in my Association 2.0 article.
(Via World Changing.)
Ben Martin has pointed out that ASAE & the Center Annual Meeting will be going paperless this year, which was a rather last minute decision by ASAE. It was pretty obvious that paperless is much preferred, in general, by attendees after they did a paperless meeting at the Technology Strategy & Solutions conferences and then followed that up immediately by a papered Great Ideas conference.
I much prefer not having a bunch of paper to lug around then throw out in the hotel room because I can’t bear to add it to my load of stuff to carry home.
Now they just need to get rid of the speakers. 🙂
In conversations I’ve had with association people (mostly in blogs so far) there seems to be agreement that doing a full-blown unconference is a tough sell to conference organizers.
In thinking about that, I wonder if an untrack would be a good first step (this idea first came up when I was discussing unconferences with Ben Martin). An untrack would essentially be an add-on to an existing conference. The organizers would set aside at least two rooms that have defined time slots and a theme but no set agenda other than that. The conference would kick-off by having people collaboratively develop session topics and leading them as described by Dave Winer yesterday.
The main benefit to an untrack is that I could see an association, typically very risk averse orgs, going for that as an experiment within an existing conference more readily than creating a brand new meeting as an unconference. Just because it is easier to sell doesn’t mean it is the best thing to do, however.
Could this work? I really don’t know if having the unstructured next to the structured would benefit either or degrade them both, or let one win over the other. Someone will have to try it and see.