A future for conferences

Mark Charmer of Akvo, the innovative water knowledge organization, gives a scathing assessment of big conferences attended by important people.

Mark recalls watching a member of royalty

tell an audience of several thousand water experts, under the watchful eye of the media, that access to clean water was vital to everyone, rich and poor. The air of resonance chamber was overwhelming – two hours x 2,000 people is 4,000 hours of expert time wasted on a series of statements that everyone in the room already knew.

Mark then gives a generous interpretation of this, and a cynical one.

He goes on to talk about the near-complete lack of innovation at these events:

In a session on innovation, I was asked for my impressions. I was scathing. As intimidating as it was impersonal, apart from the presence of mobile phones, I didn’t see anything happening around me that couldn’t have happened here in 1969. Where was the innovation? … Worse was what I didn’t see – there were not many people demonstrating new, low cost technologies, one of the things we care most about at Akvo.

Of course, there are better, more open ways of doing things, including the BarCamp approach to conferences, and Mark gives some specific ideas in his post. Read the whole post on the Akvo blog.

Reporting on BarCampAfrica

I just made a guest post on Akvo’s blog. Mark introduces the post…

Picture 3.png

I wrote recently about the New Participants in the development process and I’m pleased to introduce one here, for our first Akvo guest blog. Chris Watkins of Appropedia was able to attend the BarCampAfrica event, hosted a few weeks ago on the Google Campus in San Jose. None of the Akvo team could be there but Chris was kind enough to offer his take on what it was about. Over to Chris…

I have a confession: I love BarCamps – the free structure, the inclusive nature, and loads of interesting people. And I’m passionate about international development. So when I heard of BarCampAfrica, I knew I had to go.

To set the tone, during the opening session, we were asked to stand up if we were from Africa or had ever been to Africa – I was surprised to see the majority of the room standing. It soon become clear that this was by and large a group of action takers – people who care, who had gone out and done it, learnt the lessons, and were taking action now.

Read the full post…

Geekiodic table

@Alegrya produced a Geek-i-odic Table of the Elements for BarCampSydney 2008. U for Unorganizer, E for Entrepreur, etc.

It’s awesome, and we need to adapt it for OSNCamp… give it a greener hue, with more elements for physical design. Anyone want to take the lead for our own Geekiodic table, for tomorrow’s OSNCamp in San Francisco?

See Alegrya’s post: Geek-i-odic Table of the Elements

Open Sustainability Network Camp

The days to OSNCamp are counting down. In full, it’s the first “Open Sustainability Network Camp,” October 18-19, happening in San Francisco and online. Here’s a bit of an explanation of what OSNCamp is about:

Why “Open Sustainability”? Because when we build our own resource banks and keep them closed, we limit our impact, our potential. “Open Sustainability” is about opening up our silos of knowledge, sharing and making links, for a better world. (This is a big topic – watch for future posts on this.)

And… what exactly do we mean by “Sustainability”? It’s a “just sustainability” – a better quality of life for all, now and into the future, living creatively and constructively with the ecosystems that sustain us.

What’s this “Network“? It’s a vision. You don’t have to be a member to come. It’s a new network that organizations committed to knowledge-sharing are joining, and this is the first gathering.

It’s not yet another program or site to commit to – we use existing resources within the network where possible (which is why Appropedia is being used as the wiki for this event).

It’s a… “Camp”? No, you don’t need to bring a tent. This is a BarCamp-style event: attendance is free, everyone is a participant (no spectators) and we decide the talks on the day. (Presentation ideas are welcomed beforehand of course.) You know how in all the conferences you’ve been to, the best parts have been over tea and coffee or in hallways, and the conversations between one talk and the next? We’ll have lots more of that, plus you get a say in what talks, forums and activities happen.

Now, being a BarCamp, there’s still a lot to do in the weeks leading up to the event. You, the participant, can play a part to ensure this is not just a great meeting with interesting people, but an awesome event where fantastic synergy and cooperation emerge: You can:

  • Volunteer
  • Work on the wiki pages.
  • Help setup OSNCamp Online.
  • Bring a switch and/or wireless bridge on Sunday, so that we’ll have better wifi access on the second day (and follow other such matters on the mailing list).
  • Sponsor the conference and the network – financially, or by promoting the event to your networks. (When you blog, please use the tag osncamp2008.)
  • Look around on the wiki – there are plenty more suggestions.
  • Do that thing that none of us have thought of yet.

A great bunch of people have already signed up (scroll down to the Attendee List to see them). Hope to see you there, or online!

Open Sustainability Network Camp

The days to OSNCamp are counting down. In full, it’s the first “Open Sustainability Network Camp,” October 18-19, happening in San Francisco and online. Here’s a bit of an explanation of what OSNCamp is about:

Why “Open Sustainability”? Because when we build our own resource banks and keep them closed, we limit our impact, our potential. “Open Sustainability” is about opening up our silos of knowledge, sharing and making links, for a better world. (This is a big topic – watch for future posts on this.)

And… what exactly do we mean by “Sustainability”? It’s a “just sustainability” – a better quality of life for all, now and into the future, living creatively and constructively with the ecosystems that sustain us.

What’s this “Network“? It’s a vision. You don’t have to be a member to come. It’s a new network that organizations committed to knowledge-sharing are joining, and this is the first gathering.

It’s not yet another program or site to commit to – we use existing resources within the network where possible (which is why Appropedia is being used as the wiki for this event).

It’s a… “Camp”? No, you don’t need to bring a tent. This is a BarCamp-style event: attendance is free, everyone is a participant (no spectators) and we decide the talks on the day. (Presentation ideas are welcomed beforehand of course.) You know how in all the conferences you’ve been to, the best parts have been over tea and coffee or in hallways, and the conversations between one talk and the next? We’ll have lots more of that, plus you get a say in what talks, forums and activities happen.

Now, being a BarCamp, there’s still a lot to do in the weeks leading up to the event. You, the participant, can play a part to ensure this is not just a great meeting with interesting people, but an awesome event where fantastic synergy and cooperation emerge: You can:

  • Volunteer
  • Work on the wiki pages.
  • Help setup OSNCamp Online.
  • Bring a switch and/or wireless bridge on Sunday, so that we’ll have better wifi access on the second day (and follow other such matters on the mailing list).
  • Sponsor the conference and the network – financially, or by promoting the event to your networks. (When you blog, please use the tag osncamp2008.)
  • Look around on the wiki – there are plenty more suggestions.
  • Do that thing that none of us have thought of yet.

A great bunch of people have already signed up (scroll down to the Attendee List to see them). Hope to see you there, or online!