Camp model not magic, but can make a very good meeting

Please excuse the bloggy silence this weekend — and the bragging to follow. My employer, the Sunlight Foundation, hosted this weekend TransparencyCamp 2011, organized on the highly participatory “unconference” or “camp” model. And it came off very well, if I do say so. I’m very proud of my colleagues and incredibly inspired by the work the participants are doing to make open, transparency and participatory government in the United States and around the world.

Campers crowd session wall

"Campers crowd session wall" CC-BY-NC-SA sunlight foundation. Photo: Nicko Margolies

A word for a moment about the mode of organizing conferences like this. Because there is no theme speaker, nor an invited roster of presenters — indeed, apart from a publicly-chosen first round of speakers, the sessions were promoted and space assigned on-site — you may hear the camp model of organizing meetings described as easy or self-organizing. That’s not true. It takes a lot of dedicated and constant effort to secure and maintain the space, the food, the facilities (wifi is vital), keeping the meetings moving and on schedule and putting out fires, large and small. (Pizza is OK, but better food takes a lot more effort. A small camp is much easier to manage than a large camp and so on.)

A better way to describe the camp model of meetings is that they are challenging but possible for a quality experience that, with the same staff and resources in a traditional convention model would be overwhelming and impossible.

And so it is noteworthy for those planning meetings for church-related organizations. And I’ve been to enough of them an traditional conferences to know I like the camps better.

Interested? Here’s one model and here’s another [ah can’t find what I indended — for later]. This is one way (that needs a different name in a church context) to share information within a camp and this is another.

About Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 45, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

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