What a great week it was last week! Looking back, I feel we really celebrated. First on Friday with the unconference ‘Working on Stuff that Matters’, and then the BBQ party on Saturday. My head is still spinning from everything that took place. I will try and word some of my impressions and take-aways in a few postings. This first posting is just to get some basic things into words first, and explain the context.
Thank you!
I really am grateful to all of you who made it to the event. Some of you travelled a long way to be there. We had about a dozen nationalities present, with people coming in from seven different countries besides the Netherlands. That is both awesome and humbling to me. What’s even more awesome is the shows of friendship and love we received and how new connections as well as deeper connections were formed during the event. It’s absolutely great to see how a lot of people, that know us, but for the most part didn’t know each other, really engaged with each other. Everybody came with an open mind and eager to engage, whether they were friends, family, clients or colleagues. It blew me away, to see how well that went. Thank you all, for making the event truly special.

Impression of the diversity of backgrounds at the unconference (photo by Wilfred Rubens)

So what did we do?
We opened up our home to two days of intensive interaction. One day, Friday was an unconference for 38 people, the other day, Saturday, was a bbq party for about double that number (including children). But with the first guests arriving on Wednesday, and the last ones leaving on Sunday, to us it was basically a 5-day event.

The Unconference – Working on Stuff that Matters
The unconference sessions basically followed the BarCamp format, where at the start of the day the participants propose sessions for the program, around the preset theme. We had room for about 20 sessions, 12 in the morning, 8 or more in the afternoon.
Before building the program I made a few opening remarks on who was in the room, how I look at ‘working on stuff that matters’ and I also introduced some of the basic elements from Open Space, to help people to engage in a more open way. These were the only ‘rules’ for the event:

  • Whoever is here are the right people (both for the event, and the session you’re in)
  • Whatever you talk about is the right topic (because that apparently is where your energy is)
  • Be prepared to be surprised (Open your mind, so you can make the most of it)
  • Law of Two Feet (When you’re in a conversation where you think you cannot contribute anymore, or there’s nothing you can take out of it, feel free to go join another conversation. It is not an insult to the session host, it’s making the best of the limited face to face time we have)

Principles and single rule of engagement posted in all session spaces

We then proceeded to collect ideas for sessions, and started filling the program.
At first we only created the morning program of 12 sessions (three rounds with four parallel sessions), and left the afternoon program till after lunch, so we could adapt to whatever ideas would surface during the morning. Lunch was followed by a walk around the neighbourhood, inspired by our BlogWalks of old (and giving us time to clean-up a bit and prepare the house for the next round of sessions), before the afternoon sessions started. At the end of the afternoon sessions we created a sociogram that was the result of a networking game Patricia Wolf and Peter Troxler guided us through during the day. It’s a map of all the new connections formed. (I am thinking about how to turn this into a digital artefact. More about that in a later posting).

We collectively created a sociogram of the new connections formed

That ended in drinks (and me being sung to! 🙂 ), and a collective dinner of a variety of Chinese and Indonesian dishes.
Without going into specifics now, these are the sessions that took place, to give you a notion of breadth and scope:

  • What images / associations / people inspire us
  • 7 Days of inspiration (connecting the best ideas/people and knowledge in 14 cities in 7 days in NL)
  • Unschooling Schools, bringing entrepeneurship into school, without making it school-like
  • Making innovation, change and action ROCK!
  • Our powerful personal learning environment
  • How do I share my “shit” without writing in e.g. a blog
  • How do we manage ourselves, do amazing world-changing shit and stay healthy?
  • Business model storytelling and video
  • FabLabs, FabLab what’s next
  • Personal Canvas on work that matters
  • Connections, which matter, why do they matter
  • How to deal with communication overload?
  • Sharing your private life
  • iPad: what should we do with it?
  • How to convince people to change ‘bad’ life habits
  • How to create a data.gov.nl
  • Embrace play
  • What role does moving (walking, cycling, exercising) play in your work. Do you honour your body?
  • Mondial Learning (cross/intercultural)
  • How / When / Why can virtual worlds (or tech in general) improve quality of life

The BBQ Party
Saturday was spent picking up all the food for the BBQ party, and doing some last minute shopping to replenish the things that were used the day before, and starting to marinate the meat and prepare the salads. We had great help from several participants in doing that. Thanks for that!
From 15:00 hours on, people started coming in for the BBQ party. All the traces of the day before (like flip-over sheets and pictures) were on display around the house, triggering again more conversations). It was a great party, with even more friends, family, clients and colleagues joining us. Again many good conversations were had, and many new connections formed. I am really glad Elmine and I could be host to all of this.

Scenes from the bbq / sausages are social objects too!

I am working on several other postings around WSTM. One on giving, one on organizing an event like this, one on my own notions of Working on Stuff that Matters, one on the sociogram. And there might be more.