Why an unconference?



We explained in a previous post that GovCamp Cymru 2022 is an unconference, and what this means for how the day will look like.


But you might be wondering why? What’s wrong with the traditional conference, and what value will the unconference format bring?


Here are four big reasons why we have chosen to run GovCamp 2022 as an unconference:


We live in a fast-changing world. And, yes, a fast-changing Wales. This is especially true for those working in public services. As a result, a traditional conference which organises the topics of events and their speakers weeks and months in advance runs the risk of feeling outdated. Imagine a conference for public services organised in early March 2020 - with a rigid structure there would have been little room to discuss Covid-19, despite its impending, drastic impact on public services in Wales. An unconference, by contrast, allows (and encourages!) the attendees to discuss whatever feels most pressing to them on the day


It plays to the strength of the room. You can never be certain who will attend a conference and, with this, what expertise and insights the attendees might bring. As a result, when conference organisers arrange topics in advance, it is impossible to know whether these discussions will connect with those attending and how engaged they will be (or, worse, it can create an echo chamber where only those who think like the organiser or speaker attend). By arranging the day around the attendees, an unconference has the advantage of moving wherever the passion and expertise of its attendees lies. It leads to deeper conversations, where everyone has a place to contribute, and creates true ‘roundtable’ discussions.


It’s the most democratic format. Conference organisers are human - they make mistakes. Perhaps the wrong speaker was asked, or the wrong topic was picked. It happens. In an unconference, however, the power lies with the attendees to choose how the day looks, not a few key people. Ultimately, this is the fairest way to run things. After all, attendees will give up their time to attend GovCamp Cymru 2022 - they should have the final say.


It creates the most value for your time. In traditional conferences it can feel difficult, or even rude, to leave an event before its allocated time has ended, even if you feel like you have learnt what you can and would benefit from participating in another session. In an unconference however, you are encouraged to “move to where you can make a difference”. This means that people are free to move between sessions, contributing where they can and learning what they need. Less time is wasted, which is especially important for one day events like GovCamp Cymru 2022 where time is limited.


We’re sure that there are other good reasons for choosing an unconference format. Let us know in the comments if there are advantages that we haven’t mentioned.


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