Bringing the L&D Connect Unconference North is an experiment.
Last January, I went to an L&D Connect Event in London. It was organised by a group of Practitioners, Freelancers and Consultants who wanted to create somewhere for Learning and Development or Organisational Development Professionals to have the time and space to discuss the issues that matter most to them and their organisations. Sukh Pabial (@sukhpabial) describes the aims and intentions perfectly here.
I was invited by David Goddin (@ChangeContinuum) part of the organising team and whose judgement I trust wholeheartedly. So I was curious.
I hadn’t experienced an Unconference before. Really? You can have a conference without formal speakers? Without a programme, a rigid timetable and a slightly awkward “informal networking” experience over instant coffee; whilst balancing your Conference timetable & bag of promotional leaflets? Really? This can happen?
Turns out yes, it can. I walked into a room of around 50 people, with my beloved colleague, Ruth Maughan (who is not a social media user – a subsequent short #GetRuthOnTwitter campaign followed after the event) and I was greeted by warmth. People talking. People who “knew” people from Twitter – “Oh Hello – YOU are @fuchsia_blue? Good to meet you – I recognise you from your Twitter avatar” and people who were saying (like Ruth) I don’t use Social Media, or not that much but I’m interested in knowing more and interested in what an Unconference is…
And that was enough, somehow. People turned up because they were curious, or they wanted time to reflect, or they were seeking some new ideas or insights, or they wanted to network more widely. It wasn’t a place for Promoting My Stuff. It wasn’t a place to broadcast “The Big Idea” – it was a place to be curious – to ask questions, debate, layout different maps of the field we operate in as Professionals and start to compare territories.
There was a process – a rhythm to the session – a welcome, a hello and what would you like out of this? There was a big screen with the Twitter feed running, so we could interact with connections beyond the room and we could tweet out against the #ldcu hashtag.
Yes. There were post it notes – and fat pens and an invitation to draw or write and capture what was going on. There was debate. Challenge to thinking. Camaraderie. The inside view on a few bits of organisational life that were imperfect and real. Mainly – we talked about learning and developing people. We talked about the need for it, the craft of it, the difficulties it throws up organisationally, the innovative stuff we do to help create it, the banging-our-heads-off-tables moments we experience when it is done truly badly.
I left with a bunch of good contacts ( first time I had met Jon Bartlett @projectLibero in real life – this year, we are working together. First time I met @PhilWilcox in real life – last October, we ran an afternoon session on Intent v Impact to a group of new leaders). I left with new insights. I left with the experience of being at an Unconference and the experience of a World Cafe Process, skilfully facilitated. I left beginning to understand how the use of Social Media can really enhance an event – and how opening up those back channels ( check me with the parlance!) means a whole wide audience can be involved in what is happening in one little room.
And I return to my original statement:
Bringing the L&D Connect Unconference North is an experiment.
I’m part of a team who are seeing what happens if we run an event like this in Scotland. We don’t think such a thing currently exists and the curiosity that drew us to the London events is burning away nicely.
L&D Connect as an Unconference & Social Network runs in London and on Twitter and on Linkedin and blogs & attracts a pretty UK-wide audience. It’s not for profit & is designed purely as a networking/ learning event. It’s proving a powerful connector and source of information for Practitioners. We want to see if such a thing can exist and blossom, outwith The Big Smoke – not in a huge political statement way – but simply we acknowledge that the rhythm and pace and practicalities of getting folk together outside London is different, yet the needs of Practitioners is probably pretty aligned … so what can be done to allow those needs to be talked about…? Can L&D Connect be a good vehicle? I believe actions often speak louder than words – so let’s see.
I was asked a couple of questions on email the other day and I wrote:
“The emphasis, once we get it established a bit more, will be on getting L&D/ OD folk to experiment with formats like World Cafe, AI, Fishbowl, Petcha Kutcha – the stuff we hear about as practitioners, and might use…. but through experiencing them and reflecting on the process at the same time as we are talking about our field of expertise, gives the experience a deeper resonance ( if that’s not too bullsh*t facilitator)
What underpins it all is the encouragement to use social media – to Tweet and take photos & blog & curate ideas on storify or Vimeo etc afterward to share the learning in the room with a much wider L&D network, connected virtually to the going-s on of the day ( again – a good way to experiment with how this might work in an organisation, or as a freelancer, at an event).
So it’s meant to be a chance for folk who have tons of different experience and how feel they want to experiment, to have a voice and a play.
Right now, though, we are looking for early adopters who’ll give it a go and promote it further. Again – it’s categorically not deisgned to be a profiteering exercise.”
People Making it happen:
I”ve already mentioned Sukh and David.. and I’ll be there in the room, along with Jose Franca, OD Consultant from Chevron (@MrAirMiles on twitter) and digital archivist and all round nimble Social Media expert, Martin Couzins (@MartinCouzins) from LearnPatch and Co-Founder of L&D Connect joining the facilitation team – which means we will have an excellent record of the day. Enormous Thanks also to Tash Stallard @stirthesource for adding her own brand of magic and practicality to proceedings
So here is the invitation:
If you can come:
Be there – you can tell us if you love it or hate it…
Bring good, solid ideas and opinions with you.
Bring your Phone or Tablet and a charger and be fine with having moments of “phone-face” as you Tweet out from a discussion if you wish to.
Be prepared to disagree, share stories, ask questions, experiment with who you talk to and enjoy.
Sign up to the L&D Connect group on Linkedin and join the Twitter chat at 8am on Fridays on the #ldinsight hashtag.
Bring your reflections afterwards.
you might even want to join us set up the next one for October.
If you can’t come ( and I must take the responsibility for organising it during half term – I got my facts all muddled).
Please join the #LDCU hashtag during the day on 20th Feb Tweet us to say hello.
Ask us questions via social media.
Offer to help out on the @LnDConnect Twitter account, or curate from a distance.
If you have been to an L&D Connect Unconference, Comment here or on Linkedin and Twitter and say how it was for you.
We’ll run a Twitter Chat on 10th February on the Hashtag #ScotLanDConnect – join us there if you want to know more.