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What is an Unconference?

  • Parent Category: Programs
  • Published on Friday, 15 January 2010 19:13
  • Written by Michelle Gonzalez
  • Hits: 1313
Many ask, "What is an Unconference?" In a nutshell it is an event in which the attendees in the moment create the agenda and lead the conversation. The sessions are put forward by the women who attend and are diverse. Anyone can suggest a topic as well as lead, but remember folks are going to pick and choose the topics they are most interested in. This "My Soul at Work Unconference" is different...we have our basic structure of leading from the inside out, as well as finding ways to make our real practices best practices in the realms of self, teams or groups, workplaces and society. SO we'll start with that as a framework to list topics you are interested in discussing.

The first part of the My Soul at Work unconference is the agenda making component in the moment. We’ll start with a blank wall and, in less than 30-minutes, through a highly participative process, create the agenda for the rest of the evening, that is relevant and inspiring to everyone there about “Creating our Future.”

From there, we go to separate areas assigned to each topic. The session can be a presentation, inquiry about a question or discussion about an issue or way of leading. In each session, one participant volunteers to record the conversation.

The notes from each session are collected in my soul at work newsroom, then an online book is compiled with all the notes from the conference and distributed to everyone who attended.


The concept of the “unconference” came from the Open Space Technology method created by Owen Harrison in 1985 as a way to conduct a ‘self-organizing’ meetings around complex issues. Over the past 5 years the technology world as adopted this method as a way to respond to the overly programmed “conference” format and thus coined it as an “unconference:” a catchy and to the point label. Yet, the process and approach are the same. Here are the basic “rules” of the unconference:

The Law of Mobility (aka: Law of Two Feet):
You can pick and choose the topic you want to attend and how long you want to attend. If after say five-minutes into the topic, you feel you are not learning or contributing, you may move to another session (or take a break) by using your two feet. What this says is that we are all responsible for our learning and contribution, if it just isn’t happening it is okay to move on.

Who should attend?
Women of all sectors, industry and backgrounds who want to create a future of their own making rather than reacting (or overreacting) to current circumstances. So what will it take to create your own future? That is up to the attendees to explore and discuss.

The four principles of the Unconference are:
  1. Whoever attends is the right people: this alerts the participants that attendees of a session class as "right" simply because they care to attend
  2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have: this tells the attendees to pay attention to events of the moment, instead of worrying about what could possibly happen
  3. Whenever it starts is the right time: clarifies the lack of any given schedule or structure and emphasizes creativity and innovation
  4. When it's over, it's over: encourages the participants not to waste time, but to move on to something else when the fruitful discussion ends

For more information on Unconference or Open Space Technology see here:

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