This weekend I joined something different. An event with no agenda, no speaker or person that people had come to see. Just one person to facilitate the process. Around 40 people were there and the theme that had attracted everyone was “Hacking Modern Work life”.
You might wonder what the purpose is of gathering a group of people with no apparent agenda or prominent speaker. The best answer is probably: to talk, to listen, to learn, to exchange experiences.
The facilitator encouraged us to ask the questions we had regarding the topic. For every question, there was always another person in the room who had an answer, an experience or was interested in discussing it. In that way, the agenda was shaped around the people who were present. Topics varied from challenges in modern work life, staying healthy, how to transition from one field to another to the value of formal education versus experience, having a social life at work when you work remotely and how to maintain your personal relationships when traveling a lot. No one could have made that agenda apart from the people who were present.
What happened after this was sessions of 45 minutes with a wide variety of questions being discussed in different rooms. No specific structure, no planned content, just what was co-created by the people there.
It might seem chaotic, messy and potentially a waste of time. To me it was exactly the opposite. How often do people with very different experiences, backgrounds and personalities get together and just talk? How often do we actually manage to utilise all the knowledge and insights that we all have? How good does it feel to be able to help another person?
The concept of the Unconference taps into exactly these questions. It gives a space where everyone can be a student and a teacher, a beginner and an expert, and spends an equal amount of time listening and talking. It’s a space to meet, ask questions and make new friends or expand your network. It’s like having an advisory board of 39 new people, ready to help you progress.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, it can be a place of action.
The final discussion I joined was about going from thinking to doing. More than half the people were in this room. The woman who had suggestion this discussion, mentioned that she had thought about creating a small business selling homemade cakes. At the end of those 45 minutes, one person had helped her create a SMART goal. Another person became her accountability partner. Yet another woman had some experience in the cake-making business and offered to have a meeting. She also had her first customer, the woman sitting right next to her.
Most of these people were strangers to her and suddenly they were helping her getting her business off the ground.
I left the Unconference inspired, energised, and excited. The knowledge we have all accumulated through our lives is incredible. The support and guidance we can give to other people can change their life. Something really beautiful happens when you put strangers together and challenge them to find some answers to really big questions.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for the next Unconference! Hope to see you there!
By Stinne Friis Vognæs –