Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Outcome and Impact of the Conference

What do we have to say?

I think we have said it.

Who do we want to speak to?

Some conferences produce a report or even a declaration. I produced a "Transition Declaration" several years ago for a workshop in Oamaru, and it has gone world wide. Other conferences have produced communiques to the government or calls for action.

The statement for the conference has been crafted and is up for discussion on the next page.


How are we going to participate and have an impact through the localised e-conference format?

I thought I would share some ideas about how we can have a meaningful conversation during the conference. I'd like feedback and other ideas during this pre-conference period.

We will set up this blog with streams of discussion that arise during the conference. We have packed the programme with speakers and we've covered so many angles of life. We are keeping the talks very short, just to give the basic information about what people are doing. But there are pretty big risks if we open up the floor to quesitons and discussion from 5 remote locations!

The idea is to use the blog, and to hand out sticky notes at the different locations. People can write as many questions or comments as they like and post them on a discussion wall. A local volunteer will keep an eye on this and bring together some of the key questions or threads of conversation and present this back to the national discussion.

What do you think of this? Would you like to volunteer to be a local voice?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Novel Idea in Low Travel High Discussion Conferencing

It looks like it is all coming together! OK, I admit, this was a crazy idea. Organising a conference for a group of people in a particular organisation is normally a huge undertaking. But this idea was to essentially organise 6 conferences and the IT to connect them in real time, and get people from a huge range of fields together to talk about what is going right instead of what is going wrong... what was I thinking?

But, it's really happening.

There are people getting excited about this possibility of holding a national dialogue. They are working hard at the universities to get the venues and technology sorted, and they are working at spreading the word. I've seen the new HD323 technology, and it is incredible. No grainy garbly skypey video here folks. It's like you are right there in the room. Amazing!

We have searched around, and I'm rather confident that this is the first national e-conference of this type in the world! Think about it, the people at this event will be there when a truly participatory national low-travel conference is held for the first time. We estimate that this conference design will save 22 tones of carbon dioxide from being produced. We will be documenting this grand experiment and providing what we have learned to others.

My idea in setting up this Signs of Change Conference was to move on from defining the problems. The problems are big, and it is important that we know what is not sustainable. But I had this idea that we could find out what a sustainable society looks like by actually seeing and experiencing it emerging. This experience shared by a significant number of people around the country could be a powerful turning point. I believe there will be such a sense of momentum that we can break free of the gravity of Business-as-Usual and launch into a new direction.

We will have Keynote Speakers with expertise and experience. We will hear rapid-fire signs of change from Change Reporters in all fields and from around the country. At different venues there will be a range of activities like the breakfast discussion group at Canterbury. We will have a screening of a very special short film at the end of the first day. There will be local evening events and discussion groups. The national conference participants will work to produce a communique to our great-grandchildren to tell them about this point in history and what we are committed to doing.

We have worked very hard to keep the registration costs as low as possible. All of the Universities and the Royal Society are supporting the project with no or reduced costs. The IT specialists are taking up the project, and academics, ESR and SEF members at each venue are working to get arrangements made. There is no sponsorship in the usual sense for this conference, and there certainly will be no profit made. We will need at least 400 participants to break even, but I believe we can do it.

The number of signs of change submitted has been amazing! I knew it, the change is happening from the "bottom up".

I want to thank Pip, Nathan, Mel, and Shannon for their help in handling the emails and technicalities. I'll be the first to admit that I'm more of a big-picture than a details person. So this big idea will be a success because of them.

Plan to come along and bring a friend. We had to use work days in order to make use of the venues and IT, but I think it might be one of the more amazing holidays from work you take this year.

I look forward to seeing you there New Zealand!



Is New Zealand Signs of Change a First?

Local Conference Participation - National Discussion

Mary, Pip, Nathan and I have been searching the web and the literature to try to find out if the Signs of Change is really the first conference in the world to be organised in this way. Yes, we have found webinars, and e-conferences. In these you down-load a talk someone gave, usually to their own computer in their office, not to an audience. You can then watch the lecture at your own computer.

The Signs of Change design is quite different. We realise that conference organisers are putting on conferences at exotic destinations because the only good reason most people have to go to one of these things any more is to have a bit of a holiday.
But we think that there is something actually quite important about conferences. We have developed the structure to provide what is best about conferences:

  • Some time away from normal work
  • Some time to focus on a particular topic of interest
  • Lots of opportunities to meet with people and network
  • Opportunities to hear and learn from knowledgable speakers
  • Participating in stimulating discussion with other people interested in the topic
  • A chance to contribute to furthering the ideas and possibilities in the topic
  • A special event with something to remember
  • Spitting muffin on a stranger during exciting tea-break discussion
We also wanted to eliminate the things that we all really don't like about conferences:
  • Cost of travel and hotels including huge investment in travel time
  • Time away from family
  • Paying for "overseas experts" to be flown in to tell us about far off places
  • Carbon emissions associated with travel
  • Huge conferences where it's hard to really meet people you might connect with
  • Multiple presentation streams
So, do you agree with us? What do you like/dislike about conferences?

Do you know of any other conference that has been held like this, with local venues, but connection between venues with high definition IT?

Six Weeks till Signs of Change

Signs of Change National e-Conference 15-16 November 2010

We are now six weeks away from the big event! It's all coming together. Pip and Shannon are working hard with Nathan to make sure all the venues are all hooked up and ready for action. Pip is processing registrations as fast as she can. More than 55 potential speakers have put forward their signs of change, and unfortunately we had to choose just 40 for the two-days. Just 40? That's huge!

The original idea of the Signs of Change conference is working out so far. We have prominent academics at each of the participating cities who are helping us do the local organising. We have exciting keynote speakers from each major area of society:
Energy, Transport, Society, Agriculture, Waste Management, Business, Governance.
We have numerous people who are actually doing things in a new and prosperous way right across the spectrum of society, including health care, youth, mental health, environmental protection and restoration, organic wine...

I can't wait to hear all about this stuff!

And yes, the idea of having people take a few days off of the "business-as-usual" to discuss with others, learn from others, and participate in a national conversation of vital imporance... that is working out well too.

Now, the final issue, and I am holding my breath here -

If you build it - will they come? We need enough participation to really make it feel like a conference at each location. Can we do it? I have worked so hard to keep the costs as low as possible so that everyone can participate. I have some funds to help with the registration fee for anyone who really wants to come but might be feeling strapped. But now we need all those people from all walks of life to get together to experience this amazing event.

Would you come?