26 November 2019

What the h*** is an Unconference and why would I want to go?

That was my initial response to Anna Guenther of Pledgeme when she first mentioned the concept to me in an ‘invitation to attend’ an Unconference. The other message that kept hitting my ear-ways was ‘Collective Intelligence should hold your own Unconference’. I was like “whatever”… I can be so open-minded like that at times!

One of the most endearing things about Ms Anna is she is bloody persistent, and I should learn to just give in much quicker – it would save me a lot of tears.

So, I bit the bullet this year and attended my first ever Unconference on a marae in Levin, of all places. Lo and behold, I loved it! It was dynamic, unpredictable and I learnt a bunch of cool stuff that I would not otherwise have done. I launched our podcast series this year as a direct result of attending that event.

Once again Anna was on the money – Collective Intelligence should hold an Unconference.

Attendees at the Social Enterprise Unconference 2019 held in Levin. Photo Credit: Anna Guenther

And your question right now is, “What is an Unconference?”
An Unconference is a loosely structured conference that puts the emphasis on the informal exchange of information and ideas between participants (that’s you), rather than following a conventionally structured programme of events.

Some of the basics of an Unconference are:

  • Anyone can present on a topic that you are ‘into’ – that is, if the crowd votes it in as something they want to hear about.
  • The format is flexible. If there is an outstanding presentation it can be run twice, for example.
  • Topics are always relevant. Why? Because the conference crowd chooses the topics. Content is king and there is no status attached to a speaker.
  • Lots of connections are made and they’re generally highly unexpected ones.
  • Connections often lead to future collaborations and a network of resources.
  • It’s an absolute buzz!


Why will a Collective Intelligence Unconference be cool?
Because of the calibre and diversity of our membership, and the fact that our members know how to foster interaction in small groups (you know the drill already), no warm-up is needed. But this event is not just for Collective Intelligence members! No way. This will be a great opportunity to hang out and learn from some of the most interesting and inspiring people I know – all working to do their bit to change our world for the better.

At any one time there will be 5 workshops going on, guaranteeing that you will be able to find a subject you are interested in.

You would have already had the chance to vote for the topics you want more information about at the beginning of the Unconference. You may well have put your hand up to lead a workshop on something you are passionate about.

Because there are no traditional ‘speakers’ we can keep the cost as low as possible.

Plus, we have the expertise and energy of former member Anna Guenther and current member Dave Craig to design and run the whole thing.

And finally, our purpose will be the touchstone, the focus, for this event:

People evolving together to create a better world

We want to create an event where new connections are made, you are exposed to fresh thinking, and you are able to have your own unique say on what matters to you.

In true Collective Intelligence style, it is not for spectators, so come prepared to get your hands dirty and get into it!

Save the date and invite your friends and colleagues who are keen to help create a better world to join us on 22 and 23 of May 2020 in Wellington:

Ian Harvey (Harv)


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