Aug 26 2014

Reflecting on … unconferences …

It’s finally that time when we’re almost at the end of our project and just about have time to reflect on the number of activities and initiatives we had underway. Have we improved knowledge exchange between researchers and practitioners in social care (as well as others)? Do we now know the best methods to use? We’ve tried so many activities I may have lost count and its only really in pulling together final reports that the range of activities becomes obvious, and more so the need to reflect on them and share our reflections. We’ll be doing most of this at our final conference on 26 November 2014 but will share some thoughts over the next few weeks here as well.

One of the very early things we tried was an unconference. We brought together about 50 people (mostly professionals but some researchers) for a half-day workshop without any agenda or programme. First thought – panic! But it was amazing. Everyone was very engaged; people had come to share their research and practice priorities, others to find out what an unconference was. We discussed why people had come along, and then participants set the agenda themselves for the remainder of the workshop and very actively engaged with group work. The discussion was summarised in a short report and captured (brilliantly!) in a visual note.

Was it a good knowledge exchange method? Definitely. Not having a set agenda allowed those participating to discuss their aims for the afternoon and decide what they wanted to focus on, while at the same time drawing out key points for research and practice priorities (as we’d hoped!). Its definitely nerve-racking for the organisers – the possibility that participants may feel they’ve wasted an afternoon or aren’t getting what they’d expected, and the possibility that nobody would agree to a plan for the workshop and it would fall flat… We were clear that this was a trial, a new approach for us and we wouldn’t be guaranteeing any outcomes – which was very important to manage expectations.

But all in all it was both fun and informative. Here’s what others thought….

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