An unconference experience

What happens when we connect and discuss our challenges and opportunities in a place where there’s safety, freedom and no judgement.

A bit of a different post for me today. Sharing my summary from co-hosting an Unconference in Leicester just over a week ago for LnDConnect.

The Curve Theatre, Leicester with clear blue sky background
Image by Mark Gilroy

It was a beautiful sunny day at the Unconference last week and the Curve was a brilliant venue for us! Thank you to Mark Gilroy for his amazing photography beginning with this gorgeous one of the venue.

Image of delegate's pictures showing themselves, their name, what they think of Christmas and decorated with Christmas stickers
Image by Mark Gilroy

The Unconference Low Down

We had a great mix of people on the day, including a couple of delegates from the Civil Service who came purely to learn about the format and experience of an unconference for an internal event they’re running. In fact they left with a lot more than that which was brilliant!

We also had a great mix of in-house and freelance / consultants which gave balance: insights into the front line of being in an employed role and the bigger picture from those not stuck in those particular weeds.

This theme of front line reality to big picture was something that came out from the question I hosted in the World Cafe section at the start: What are we missing? There was also a theme about uncertainty — maybe exacerbated as a high number of delegates were public sector who’ve experienced uncertainty from government and a lack of decision making for the last three years. Getting OK with not knowing, having courage and being vulnerable all consistently came up as important for progress. Underpinning it all was a need for empathy to first of all understand where people are now before we try and take them forward into the future.

Where does this resonate for you?
Where do you need to be understood better? Where could you understand others more?

Image of delegates around a flipchart, capturing ideas about technology in learning and development
Photo by Mark Gilroy

Open Space Time

As we moved into Open Space there were two tracks that grabbed peoples’ attention: Tech in L&D and The Impact of L&D, followed after lunch by a second round of tracks.

As well as processing and gaining insights and next steps, delegates found the experience of Open Space echoed what had come out about first needing to be understood. Listening and expressing cathartically in a safe space allowed them to free their minds and think more clearly about how to move forward.

To do something different we then offered three mini learning sessions. I led one about mindfulness: how you can live a mindful life without a mindfulness practice. Instead we can understand our psychological system to then live from a mindful experience. Mark Gilroy led a soupcon of a Street Wisdom in half an hour! You can read about Annette’s experience here. Thanks to all the settling of minds and connecting with others that had already happened, everyone gained valuable insights. For the third taster, Sukh Pabial led a session on Reflective Practice for practitioners to enable ongoing learning and adjustments an individual.

To close Sukh led a Fish Bowl where a small group of delegates in the centre shared their reflections and observations of the day, replaced by others from the outer circle as ideas or thoughts were sparked. My big insight from this was how we restrict ourselves through false limitations and imagined boxes — the opportunity is now, to re-balance and bring our innate human creativity to the fore. Boxes then sit in their rightful place as practical tools in the implementation of our brilliance!

Image of Helen Amery smiling and a delegate sitting forward laughing
Image by Mark Gilroy

If you’re curious about running events like this for yourself, or about the psychological system at play that makes them so successful, then just get in touch to talk.

Or if you’d like to go to an LnDConnect Unconference in the future, just follow them on Twitter. The volunteers who make LnDConnect happen run these events cross the UK and beyond through the year.

With love, Helen

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